I NEVER THOUGHT I'D HAVE TO EXPLAIN IT ALL
05/03/2019 - 09/03/2019
Inspired by Serial, The Jinx, and West of Memphis, this postmodern black comedy investigates one of Australia’s most compelling mysteries: the disappearance of baby Tegan, and the suspicious behaviour of her mother, high-performance athlete and Sydney socialite Keli Lane.
Backed by live music and armed with an incisive wit, performer Nathalie Morris asks the question: what passes for truth in the Entertainment Age?
This original work was created by graduating students of Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School for the Festival of Work in Development in 2018.
Tapere Iti at Te Auaha, 65 Dixon Street, Wellington
Tuesday 05 – Saturday 09 March 2019
General Admission $20.00
Fringe Addict $14.00
Wheelchair access available
Performer: Nathalie Morris
Succeeds as a showcase
Review by John Smythe 06th Mar 2019
I leave this play impressed on some levels and confused on others. Only when I read the Fringe website blurb again do I understand the rationale: “…performer Nathalie Morris asks the question: what passes for truth in the Entertainment Age?”
It also says “Inspired by Serial, The Jinx, and West of Memphis, this postmodern black comedy investigates one of Australia’s most compelling mysteries: the disappearance of baby Tegan, and the suspicious behaviour of her mother, high-performance athlete and Sydney socialite Keli Lane.”
I have to Google those titles and names to get the hang of it all. While it’s valid that a theatre piece should inspire further thought, enquiry and research, I don’t believe it should be a requirement for understanding the play itself.
I do recall West of Memphis, co-produced by Peter Jackson, and described by critic Joe Morgenstern, film critic for The Wall Street Journal as “a devastating account of police incompetence, civic hysteria and prosecutorial behavior that was totally at odds with a vastly persuasive body of evidence uncovered in a privately funded investigation”. The Jinx, subtitled The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst involves an unsolved murder with a prime suspect still at large. And Serial is a podcast series that I think involves strange disappearances and suspected murder cases that also remain unsolved.
I Never Thought I’d Have to Explain It All begins as a solo performance in which Nathalie Morris characterises herself as an Australian investigative reporter and embodies an eclectic range of people with various opinions about water polo athlete Keli Lane and the disappearance of her second baby, Tegan. Keli had the misfortune to keep getting pregnant and after two teenage abortions she had one baby adopted out and claims her next one, Tegan was too. But somewhere between their leaving the hospital and Keli attending a wedding – either two or four hours later, depending on which version you believe – the baby vanished.
As she plays out the tropes of investigative journalism, Morris treats us to an impressive display of physical and vocal versatility. Then strange sound effects punctuate the narrative – and Schrodinger’s Cat is brought into play to question the credibility of quantum mechanics and, by association, the various theories about what has happened to Tegan. “Is Keli in prison for murdering someone who is still alive?”
Suddenly another actor – Andrew Eddy – is introduced to host a chat show scene and now it’s all about how personality cults, egos and ‘entertainment’ stunts obscure the quest for truth. Hannah Lynch covers scene changes with well-sung songs – “They’re gonna crucify me” (from ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’) …
A police interview scene – with Tyrone Elia and Elisabeth Marschall – offers a good account of how Keli (Morris) reacts to the inconsistencies in her story but it’s somewhat compromised by Elia’s cop facing upstage. He may well be delivering an excellent film performance but we only see the back of his head and miss a lot of what he is saying.
Nathalie’s meeting with Keli, in prison, reverts to solo performance. She diverts into discussing theatre practice with her by way of requesting permission to tell her story: “Theatre doesn’t attract big audiences or make much money, so there’s no reason to lie.” Then she’s back with a group at what turns out to be a ‘CrimeCon’ session, although Nathalie is the only one with a mic. And there’s a break-out scene that breaks the 2nd rather than the fourth wall … An intriguing visual, utilising an OHP, tracks the route from the hospital to the wedding but the session ends before anything is resolves: that’s how it is with conferences.
As for whether theatre tells the truth – does it count if you reveal the falsehoods at the end? That’s what we are left to contemplate, along with an FBI-sourced composite sketch of ‘person of interest’ which also may or may not bear some relevance to reality.
Having begun as an “original work … created by graduating students of Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School for the Festival of Work in Development in 2018”, I Never Thought I’d Have to Explain It All still has the hallmarks of a student exercise dedicated to experimenting with theatre practice rather than using theatre as a means to some greater end. It needs to decide whether it’s about the Keli/ Tegan case or about “what passes for truth in the Entertainment Age” and enrol the audience in its purpose within the realm of its performance.
As a showcase of Nathalie Morris’s acting skills, and the peer support of her generous colleagues, however, it succeeds unquestionably.
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