Saturday, July 26, 2014

Purgatorio by 5pound Theatre, Review


Reviewed by Lee Bemrose for Australian Stage

I admit to not knowing very much about this play prior to seeing it. I remember seeing Death And The Maiden, the movie version of the playwright's best known work – though perhaps not the most important by the prolific writer, thinker and teacher, Ariel Dorfman. And I remember always coming away from 5pound Theatre productions feeling satisfied.

Going in blind like this added to the sense of intrigue, of wondering just what was going on, which enhanced the whole experience, and I'd suggest that you do the same. Which means I'm suggesting you don't read the rest of this review. Just go along and see Purgatorio if you want a shortish play that deals with some big ideas about human nature, love, redemption, forgiveness and revenge. That's my short review.

Here's a longer version:

The play opens with a woman prowling what appears to be a cell. Could be prison. Could be in a mental institution. She seems tormented, would like to not be here. Oddly, there is a knife inside her cell.

A man appears outside her cell wall and proceeds to calmly interrogate the woman. He asks questions but his air is one of already knowing all the answers. His questions are leading. He wants a confession, knows there is one in there, is determined to get it. As it turns out though, he wants a lot more than just a confession.

Suddenly the situation switches. A man. A room that could be a prison cell. A female interrogator asking questions that she knows the answers to. Where are they? What have they done? Have they done it to each other? What do they want from each other. What is going on here?

The characters' back story is based on a classic, tragic myth (not telling you which one) and what might become of them as they wait in purgatory. Their stories do unfold and become clear through these interrogations and we see that at least in this case, love, hate, revenge, forgiveness and redemption are complicated beyond solution when taken to such extremes. And the crimes committed here are indeed quite extreme. Brutal revenge has been taken, forgiveness seems unfathomable, and yet these two characters seem caught up in a reluctant, twisted, volatile, eternal kind of love.

The audience is split into two because the stage is divided into two by a an opaque curtain representing the room's wall. I'm not sure why the play was staged like this. We could see the other character and the rest of the audience through the curtain, just not very clearly. Perhaps it was way of demonstrating division, of motivations being one sided. Perhaps the audience(s) came away with slightly different perspectives. Perhaps it was none of the above and I should stop speculating about the symbolism of the curtain and move on to the quality of the acting.

The acting was amply capable of dealing with this simple yet weirdly complex story. Freya Pragt as the woman and Jason Cavanagh as the man both had to switch between cold, calm accuser and complex, messed up human trapped by their actions and motivations in a place they don't (and perhaps do) want to be. Pragt was in good form as she finally revealed the treachery of her acts and still managing to elicit some unexpected sympathy from this audience member. Her story demonstrates that treachery doesn't always appear out of the blue, and that you can't seek revenge without having a reason for it. Perhaps if I was on the other side of the curtain (He's on about the curtain again!) I might have been more affected by Cavanagh's sense of yearning for something that could never be. Both played well off each other, especially given that they were mostly obscured from each others view for most of the play. And especially as the play is a bit of a head-bender; it's not set in our world or time, and time has simultaneously stopped and goes on forever, stuck as the characters are in an eternal loop.

Enjoyable on every level. I give if four curtains.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Long Spindly Arms

This is a very bizarre photo of me. I look like a humanoid alien with anorexia in the top half of my body.

Water-affected visuals aside, this is me enjoying the Peninsula Hot Springs. First full weekend The Dreaded One and I have had off in about seven months. We booked a day at the springs, two nights at a close by hotel thing (we booked a poolside room but got upgraded to a bungalow which is very cosy and cool), and oh man... we needed this. I feel so chilled.

Looking forward to our next visit.

Cafe at this stage seems to be chugging along nicely. Still no room for complacency or confidence, but chugging nicely is a good thing.

Oh - and once again I am reminded of people who should just stay at home rather than venture to another place. I wrote something about it back here. Although this weekend was not travelling and was not experiencing anything outside my comfort zone (quite the opposite) I was reminded by overhearing so many conversations that some people really should just stay inside their own home, because if they venture too far away, they become miserable and complain, often loudly. I've read lately of people becoming homesick after only a couple of weeks abroad... I just don't get the concept of feeling homesick. How in the hell can you feel homesick when you are in a foreign country with all it has to offer that you won't get at home? The longest I've been in foreign countries is about six months or more. I didn't feel homesick once. Not for a moment. I may have felt briefly frustrated at not getting how things worked or not being able to communicate efficiently, or not knowing exactly where I was, but this was all part of the wonderful adventure of travelling.

Even during this weekend away - which has reminded me that my actual natural habitat is luxury hotels (that's kind of a joke - I'm just as happy in a shitty hotel or a tent, if it's in a fun place) - I overheard people complaining. Okay, sure, the springs were more crowded than I was expecting and mostly overheard conversation is pretty dumb and group dynamics can be strange... but if you decide to do a thing, shouldn't you aim to have a good time and make the most of it rather than focus on the negatives?

Yes, is the answer to that rhetorical question. Fuck yes.

But if you can't help yourself, if you really must moan and complain rather than try to enjoy yourself, do it quietly. Keep it to yourself. Most likely it's your attitude that's bringing you down rather than actual stuff; no reason to broadcast and bring those around you down.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Conversations With Our Customers: The Soup, The Hug, The Scooter Dude

Strictly speaking, he wasn't a customer, but he promised that one day he would be.

New member of Team Awesome, Alyx, sits outside and has a bowl of The Dreaded One's minestrone, which many customers have declared the best they have ever had.

Grumpy watches from the inside as a guy on a little tiny scooter rolls to a stop and starts talking to Alyx. Grumpy assumes they must know each other, as there are smiles during the short conversation. Apparently the conversation went a little like this...

Little Tiny Scooter Dude, as he rolls to a stop: "Whoa. That soup looks awesome."

Alyx: "It's really good."

Little Tiny Scooter Dude: "I'm not hungry right now, but if I was I'd have some of that soup."

Alyx, smiling: "Okay. Good."

Little Tiny Scooter Dude: "I'll probably come back another time."

Alyx: "Okay. Cool."

Little Tiny Scooter Dude: "Yeah... you know, Melbourne's all right, but sometimes I just want a hug."

Alyx: "Oh. Right."


Little Tiny Scooter Dude: "But I won't hug you. Because you're eating soup."

Alyx smiles and nods and keeps eating soup. Little Tiny Scooter Dude climbs back on to his trusty steed and rides off into the sunset.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

A Random Customer Says Nice Things

A new review of the cafe is up on Urbanspoon. We read this at the end of a hard day, and it made all the hard work worthwhile.

New members of Team Awesome are on board now.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

A Fucking Post About A Stuck Fucking Key. Fucking Fuck Etc.

Under-staffed, blackout just as lunch service starts, and just to finish off the day, this. Fucking key gets stuck in the fucking fire escape door.  I have honestly never encountered a more stuck thing in my life than this fucking key. It's, like, fucking STUCK!

Still, first world problems. Everything's peachy. It's all fucking peachy.