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THE HEART IS STILL A LONELY HUNTER

Print Version

The Word Becomes Me
Two In The Hand

at Meteor Theatre, Hamilton
From 23 Sep 2011 to 24 Sep 2011

Reviewed by Gail Pittaway, 27 Sep 2011


Two in the Hand theatre company presented a tidy package of three short plays which, though not the first night or opening show, gave a great kick start to the Fringe Festival in Hamilton and a reminder of the joys of fringe – offering so much more freedom in style and experimentation for the players than more conventional theatre. That includes being able to offer smaller packages and morsels; “Tapas” theatre, perhaps?

The pieces were well placed in the programme, beginning with a dramatic confrontation, moving through four short monologues linked by a simple café scene and a theme of loneliness, and building to a riotous finale with Stephanie Christian's Three To Get Ready, set at a hen party. The whole evening was well managed with slick scene changes while haunting violin interludes were played by Adam Maha in the background, or extremely loud party music provided by Jeremy Mayall was blared from the sound system.

All The Spaces In-Between, written by Stephanie Christian is a short play built on a confrontation between two women, apparent strangers with the same name, Alice, but developing a transference of anger over cruelty from current and former partners. There is a hint that it is over the same man. It is a nice little Pinteresque piece with some melodramatic lines delivered with deadpan woodenness, especially by Christian.

Alice (Aimee Cronin) is getting ready for bed, turning off lights when there is a knock at the door; a strange woman (Stephanie Christian) is asking for help after alleging she's had an accident. Although they are apparent strangers, the ‘other' woman seems threateningly inquisitive. Even more strangely, Alice does not appear to be too alarmed by this and confides her weird observations about meaning and words, to demonstrate her own alienation. 

The performers worked the transference of energy well, with Cronin's apparently settled and conventional household being upturned by the woman's constant questioning: “Where is your husband? Do you know where he is?” Christian, at first a little too quietly understated, works out her character's instability with relentless calm, and while a little too stereotypically dressed in old raincoat and hood as a bag lady, certainly enjoys the moment of revealing what she had in her supermarket carry bag; a nail gun. It was a genuinely frightening piece of weaponry. 

The next piece, Four Monologues, written by a variety of local playwrights, worked well. Four strong actors delivered the ordinary local characters with touches of awkwardness and ingenuousness. The first, written by Aimee Cronin, performed with alarming credibility by Jono Carter, was a young guy trying to sweet talk a new girlfriend, but his narcissism and lack of intelligence became increasingly revolting. It was a ghastly piece of comedy, in a good way. 

The second, written by David Foote and Aimee Cronin, performed by Caroline Waugh, was a shorter piece about a young woman attracted to a Chinese boy and trying to work out the racial politics of the situation while being desperate not to be racist. Despite the gaucheness this was the least caricatured of the monologues and delivered with sensitive timing and accurately paced accent. 

The third piece again by Aimee Cronin was a ‘sad sack' treatment of a male loser in love games and Ross MacLeod made this chap almost touching in his hopelessness; but not quite. Again, it was skillfully managed as theatre, not stand-up comedy, performed with an understated apparent modesty which revealed the chasm of emotional intelligence beneath. 

Finally Stephanie Christian delivered a very funny monologue as a separated mother of two sitting in a slightly more up-market café than she was used to, and trying not to look too out of place. Braden, her youngest little monster who seemed to be delving into everyone else's handbags and drinks, kept distracting her from relaxing, while also providing an imagined audience to apologise to or explain herself away. David Foote, Aimee Cronin and Stephanie Christian co –authored this strong sketch piece and managed to use solo mother and lower class local Hamilton clichés without being clichéd.

Three To Get Ready, the final play of the evening was worth waiting for –and complemented the preceding acts with its themes of dating and mating. Shelley is getting married and Belinda her sister in law to be are hosting a hen party for her. Only Shelly doesn't show up. Cat, her catty sister, and Kylie, her skanky work mate, do, however and the result is one of the funniest original plays I‘ve seen for ages.

The play begins rather like the Theatre Sports party game and proceeds in a similar way as ill-matched, extreme personalities arrive at the door of the anxious host. The hen party then becomes the vehicle for propulsion of plot and character – drinking, party games and increasing self revelations ensue.

It is such a simple concept –yet the play is a vehicle for the strengths of all the players who had already performed, and all revealed new energy and depths despite the absurdity of the situation. Belinda (Stephanie Christian) is polite and romantic and rather virginal, Kylie (Aimee Cronin) is her exact opposite, looking for a wild night, starting with getting very drunk, while Cat (Caroline Waugh) provides cynical and well-timed sarcastic commentary on her absent sister, the groom-to-be and the other players.

About two thirds of the way through the play there is an interruption from the noise control officers (Jono Carter, Ross MacLeod) who proceed to deliver an appalling male stripper routine to a broken tape in their boom box. The party deteriorates while the humour cranks still higher.

Christian acknowledges contributions from the cast and others in the writing of this piece while Alec Forbes's hand on the light and sound production was sure. 

This small company of players and writers has produced a great evening of mostly comic delights but with a good dose of nastiness thrown in. It's a pity it couldn't play for longer although it attracted full houses for its short season. The uniformity of talent and content was impressive.

The plays all worked in simple themes and settings, exploring little new about the world but affirming an awareness of strong gender divides, characters often disarmingly honest yet unknown to themselves, so hopeless yet so good to laugh at; and that the heart is still a lonely hunter.  

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