Monday, May 4, 2015

The Death of Comedy: Television actors and the demise of the stage

RIP Thursday, April 30, 2015
Timeshare by Lally Katz
Southbank. Melbourne

Malthouse Theartre (Contemporary Australian Th...
Malthouse Theartre (Contemporary Australian Theatre) in Southbank, Melbourne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Don't get me wrong, I don't have an axe to grind. I love comedy in all its forms. This performance at Melbourne second major professional theatre simply rang alarm bells for me. Theatre in this city seems to be close to dying after a long, drawn out and painful withdrawal from funding.

The play was set on a fictional resort that straddles the International Date line somewhere in the Pacific. So far so good. The stage was like a large sand pit surrounded by tiling reminiscent of a swimming pool. A few deck chairs and sun umbrellas completed this minimalistic set design. The lighting was very basic.

The play nominally deals with the issue of Alzheimer's disease, ie, the play is didactic in the Germanic tradition. It has a moral purpose.

Marg Downey (foreground)

Marg Downey played the lead role of a forgetful mother on holidays with her daughter, played by Brigid Gallacher, who doubles as a resort worker, Maria. Her resort worker counterpart, Juan Fernandez, is played Fayssal Bazzi, who doubles as, Gary, the son of Marg Downey's character. Bert LaBonté plays the resort manager.

The lack lustre performance was directed by Oliver Butler. There were few redeeming features to this play which followed no known comedic schema that I am aware of, and as such, was so unfunny, that I felt physically sickened by the performance. I just wanted to leave ASAP. I was polite enough to wait for one round of encores that was it.

The accents were good, the set design, not bad, the lighting flat and drab. The timing of delivery of what seems like a poorly written script was non-existent, the casting was terrible for the plays theme of memory loss, costume was op-shop style, the performers were so unfit as to be showing visible signs of cellulose under the sub-standard lighting. The play was, in a word, just not that funny.

Fayssal Bazzi with Brigid Gallacher
Fayssal Bazzi and Bert La Bonte tried hard, and at least they managed to tried hard to energise their poorly written and directed parts. Brigid Gallacher tried hard and her portrayal of Maria did seem to have some life to it. All three sang in competent if not great theatrical style. Marg Downey just doesn't seem to know how to act or has simply forgotten what ever she did know. She didn't seem to want to sing or just can't.

Bert LaBonte
It saddened me to see this performance. I have nearly lost faith in the ability of the Melbourne stage to produce quality stage shows. Maybe it is the exporting of all our talent or funding cutbacks that have caused this problem, or perhaps it is the take over of the Melbourne stage by television stand up comics. Whatever, Timeshare was an abysmal display of performing arts. Apart from the strumming of a few chords backstage, there was little to redeem this performance which would have been more ably staged by first year university students, I sure.

My wife and I left the theatre feeling emotionally drained, cold due to the Malthouse's poor heating system, financially ripped off, and determined not to make the mistake of making the journey to a performance at the Malthouse ever again. Sad, as I love theatre and am finding it increasingly hard in this country to get my fix of the Bacchanallian arts. Maybe it is just our meanness as a nation that has robbed us of the joy of being able to playfully create pieces that entertain and educate.