REVIEW: Blue Room Summer Nights Week 2: Part 2

FAG/STAG – PICA, 5 Feb 2015


Tinder, Grindr, clubs, bars…sex is just a swipe away, and connection with strangers is both quicker and more treacherous than ever, but where is the intimacy? Where is the companionship? How do you make sense of it all? Chris Isaacs and Jeffrey Jay Fowler make a pretty valiant attempt at putting it to words, telling us the story of two guys, one gay (Jimmy), one straight (Corgan), who are playing the field in between games of Donkey Kong. Trouble is, they don’t seem to have much fun playing. It’s a case of 21st century malaise, and the 20-something guys lay bare all their anxieties and vulnerabilities with regards to sex, love, friendship, technology and house sharing.


Isaacs and Fowler have found near-perfect pace in storytelling, dovetailing their stories without a hitch. There are moments that push past the boundaries of some people’s comfort zone as they dig deep for realism. These two don’t mince words or play coy, and it’s evident how in tune they are with each other, even though their perspectives don’t merge into a single narrative until the end. They’re both superbly nuanced in their delivery and evenly balanced in their demeanour, with Fowler’s story cascading forward while Isaacs takes a more measured approach. The humour and the emotion are also evenly balanced, which is a credit to two skilled writers who have a keen understanding of how the written word should translate aurally for a live audience. It somehow all seems so effortless, even as their characters struggle and wrestle through some tough territory. And comedy is the toughest gig of all – Isaacs and Fowler make it seem as easy as swiping right.


Yours the Face – The Blue Room, 5 Feb 2015


Roderick Cairns does a double-take as Emmy, an American model and Peter, an Australian photographer, in Fleur Kilpatrick’s Yours the Face, a one-man duet directed by Sarah Walker and Rob Reid. Cairns first inhabits the character of Emmy, but it’s not readily apparent that he’s a female, although we know for sure he is playing an American. Something about the opening few minutes is destabilising, and it’s not really until he becomes Peter, using a more natural tone and accent that things become grounded and the story clear. Peter is shooting Emmy in London, and although they seem to get off to a rough start in their working relationship, they soon become involved off camera after a chance meeting in a cafe.


There is seduction, sexual tension and struggle between the two characters, which is rather unsettling, given that they’re played by a single actor. Perhaps the course of their short-lived relationship wouldn’t be as interesting if it were played out by two actors, as some of the twists and turns trend towards the cliched. The narrative digresses to a great extent during the last quarter of the piece, and one wishes for fewer tangents to take us off track. Cairns shows incredible stamina and tenacity in his performance, and he commands that we stay right with him through to the end. His body contorts in fascinating ways as he strips Emmy naked for Peter’s camera, perfecting a contrapposto S-curve that would put the Venus de Milo to shame.


600 Seconds – The Blue Room, 6 Feb 2015


The Blue Room’s annual theatre shorts showcase is once again offering Perth’s independent theatre and dance makers their 10 minutes of fame in 600 Seconds. There were seven short pieces on a range of topics and in a variety of styles, from slam poem to mini cabaret to dance theatre. My top pick from the seven shows I saw (there was a completely different program of shorts the week prior) was Contentment in B Minor performed by Haydon Wilson; he delivers a poetic monologue from the perspective of a rough Aussie bloke, proud of his drinking abilities, ambivalent about other people’s opinion of him. We often comment about how Australia is searching for an identity, but this piece somehow demonstrates a quintessentially Australian character, exaggerated though he may be. He’s offensive and loveable in equal measure, and Wilson commits wholeheartedly to both aspects. Another notable work was It’s Strange To Remember A Touch Over A Thought, a dance quartet that showed some excellent partner work by Russell Thorpe, Scott Elstermann, Ayesha Kats and Rikki Bremner (who also choreographed).


10,000 – The Blue Room, 6 Feb 2015

Jessica Messenger and Nick Maclaine melange pop culture, gamer culture and theatre in 10,000, the story of a couple trying to repair a broken relationship. It’s directed by Hellie Turner, and sees Maclaine and Messenger holed up in a hotel room during a thunderstorm. They’re playing a video game of some sort; Maclaine’s drinking Jack Daniels from the bottle and Messenger is questioning the whole scenario. Suddenly somehow they get transported and stuck inside the game during a power outage (suspension of disbelief needs to be well intact for this one) and must fight their way out together without killing each other in the process. It’s all metaphor obviously, and perhaps not terribly subtle in this, but never mind. It’s fun to watch Messenger and Maclaine go at it, with plenty of sword fighting choreographed by Perth’s best-loved fight choreographer Andy Fraser, and their take on how a real live human couple might inhabit a video game is entertaining. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, and things do turn serious once they’re back in the real world. Without spoiling the ending, resolution to the conflict remains elusive, which audiences may or may not find satisfying, depending on how neatly they like things wrapped up. There are plenty of opportunities for sound and light cues to trip up the action, but it all goes off without a hitch, much to the technical team’s credit.