Photo: Teresa Noble
I’m sitting there in the dark.
Sitting there in the dark watching a play by Lachlan Philpott at Red Stitch.
A child has gone missing at Disneyland but nothing evokes Disneyland for me, not even the actors wearing mouse ears. Especially not the actors wearing mouse ears and affecting exaggerated American accents. I want to feel what the mother is feeling, while officious behind-the-scenes Disney workers assure her everything is going to be fine.
I want a sense of her being frantic and frustrated.
But I don’t get this sense because the language of the play is putting me at a distance. The expository monologues don’t paint a picture or flesh out a world beyond the very basic (“padded concrete, padded seats”) and the facile (“padded people”).
This choral arrangement of voices is not singing.
Eight-year-old David remains missing all day and we learn that his single mother has felt separate from him ever since. We aren’t given much of a hint of why. David, now 33, has come out as gay but has hidden his relationships from his mother and his best friend. But is that a symptom of the distance or the reason behind it?
What happened to him at Disneyland? Colder wants you to ask that question but resists answers and insight. When the character says that nobody really knows anybody else, I was disappointed the played turned on such a cliché.
The design elements of the production – both the set and lighting – elevate the material. The curved slats of the set, which resemble a wave about to crash on the characters, keep the actors on their toes for the entire performance. The lighting helps with changing moods, even as the characters are scattered across space and time, rarely, if ever, connecting with each other.
Early on, I wondered if Philpott had ever been to Disneyland. Then David, his sex partners
and his boyfriend describ e Sydney
like they’d overheard someone talk of Potts Point, Surrey Hills and Oxford
Street. Strange for a writer who is from there.
When the parades of Disneyland and Mardi Gras are used as a recurring theme in David’s life, the play lost me. If it had ever had me.
I was there.
I was sitting in the dark.
Sitting in the dark, waiting for it to be over.