AYU Wellness Arts Events Space, Ground Floor, 7 Crawford Street, Dunedin

14/04/2021 - 17/04/2021

Dunedin Arts Festival 2021

Production Details

Bones and Elaine are holed up, on the run from a hectic lifetime of mayhem. Rapacious and unrepentant as they are, they really ought to be perfectly content in a world plagued by fake news, thuggery, venality and, well, plague.

… but time and exhaustion catch up with even the most enterprising of sociopaths eventually. And what to do with all that boundlessly malevolent energy when you’re locked down with only your dark-hearted dearest for company – except to engage in simple acts of malice? 

AYU Wellness Arts Events Space, Ground Floor, 7 Crawford Street, Dunedin
14-17 April 2021
Full: $20 + service fees
Early Bird: $15 + service fees
Under 19: $15 + service fees
Senior: $25 + service fees
Group of 6+: $15 + service fees 

Theatre ,

1 hr 20 min, no interval

Difficult material delivered with boundless malevolent energy

Review by Angela Trolove 15th Apr 2021

A couple, trapped in the same room, recount the best day of their life: the day they killed their father! But here’s the catch – they killed him for an inheritance they can’t get, because one has the key, and the other knows where the safe is, and neither will spill. Each is waiting for the other to give in. However, they’re inseparable for another reason too, a reason which is the fabric of the play: they’re bonded in their abusive relationship.

Richard Huber’s direction is perfect. We audience are seated along the room’s four walls. The two actors provide time changes themselves by turning out, dimming, or brightening the lights. They may use a chair, they may lean against a column, that’s all. It’s effective.

At the conclusion, this show appears to be variously received. Around the room, amid great applause, faces either look concerned and perplexed, or they beam.

Because it’s difficult material. It’s a grotty mash up of loyalty and rage, of love and hate. Elaine (Barbara Power), for instance, recalls her school report card, in which a teacher called her “as thick as pig shit”. Her father tore it up and insulted the teacher. We’re proud for her. But then, she recounts, he tells her to count to ten. Impersonating her late father, she screams at her younger self, “You can’t even count to eight!” The characters joke about it, but it disturbs me.

Fortunately, the make-up of the two actors confirms the malign comedy genre: the actors’ faces are whitened in a clown’s foundation, and one of Power’s eyebrows is pencilled to clear exaggeration. After the show she explains to an audience member that the eyebrow “takes it [the play] out of this world. Which is where it needs to be.” At those words I can finally breathe.

We do see tenderness between the two. Elaine cradles Bones (Simon O’Connor) at her knees, singing him an obnoxious lullaby, reassuring him that he’ll come to no good. Since they share memories of their ‘Daddy’, I assume they’re brother and sister, and therefore incestuous. I keep testing against the script whether they’re not just a conventional couple, Bones referring to his late father-in-law as Daddy, but I’m stumped.

Misunderstandings aside, the writer of the play, Vincent O’Sullivan, has put into the hands of two exceptional actors his dovetailed dialogue, dialogue which feels more like an interior monologue given the tight delivery. Short lines feed back and forth in a steady metronome. Interconnected and snug. What he presents us is something I can’t at first put my finger on. This is the best and the worst of stream-of-consciousness scripting! There’s Bones’ prattle where he will not let Elaine sleep, and then there’s insight. We learn he’s ashamed of his one room ‘empire’, that he misses those glorious trafficking adventures and those racist forays with the late Daddy. Degeneration is the point, of course, but I still don’t get it. We are products of circumstance, is that it? Or is that the joke?

O’Sullivan explores meditation. Elaine says, “Sometimes it’s better to say nothing rather than something.” Of course, Bones has his retort. She insists they take a rest. Each takes a pillow and lies at either end of the room. With her eyes closed, in the one reprieve of a scene in the whole play, Elaine talks us through her form of sanctuary – she recites the names of places, suburbs and beaches she loved as a child. It’s how she escapes from herself.

The one reckless scene which I can get on board with, the one which is so far out as to feel safe, is the couple recounting planning to kill their father. Poison on the tip of an umbrella, nudging under a bus, drowning, setting fire to his rest home? The actors circle within the audience, tag-teaming the ideas they had thrown about. Elaine tells us, “My doctor told me you can overdo it, thinking too much about how to kill your father.” O’Sullivan and Power, with her flawless deadpan, make the audience laugh.

This difficult material is leavened both by O’Sullivan’s love of language and the actors’ intense, prickling embodiment of these theoretical characters with boundless malevolent energy. RBS Productions is a powerful, compelling unit.


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