Tuesday, 2 June 1998

Keene /Taylor Theatre Project 3, June 2, 1998


By Daniel Keene & Ariette Taylor
Brotherhood of St Laurence Warehouse 97 Brunswick St Fitzroy 
until June 21, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

In this third series of the Keene/Taylor Theatre Project, the three short plays rely not on technology, but fine performances and dialogue to affect us.

 We are drawn closer to the plight of our underclass that has been created by our social and moral vacuum and loss of community.

Director, Ariette Taylor, uses four actors, a dancer and18 extras. Performances are all versatile and detailed. Once again, the pieces are set in the raw and real environment of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence furniture warehouse and staged simply by Taylor with very few theatrical devices. The design uses the actual welfare furniture and Paul Jackson's lighting is simple with bare globes and plastic light fittings

Daniel Keene's playwriting falls into two distinctly different styles: social realism and a more elusive poetic form In this series, both styles are represented.

To Whom It May Concern is a poignant, intimate tale of an ageing and ill father's struggle  (Malcolm Robertson) to solve the future of his 40 year old intellectually disabled son, Leo, (Phil Sumner) after father is gone. It is sweet and tragic with dad trying to be practical and Leo remaining frightened and uncomprehending. These are the disenfranchised of our inner city. Information is power and this father and son have none so they wander alone in the urban wilderness.

Custody is a grittier slice of life about a police cover-up of a death in custody. The young buck cop (Dan Spielman) is responsible but his volatile senior officer (Phil Sumner) engages in an elaborate deception to avoid discovery. It is violent and terrifying in its emotional brutality, overt racism and the characters complete lack of accountability for their actions. It is an indictment of the justice system.

Keene's poetic form appears in What Remains of Dying that is a moving, fraught monologue by Paul English as an unnamed, unspecified man, distressed and despairing when his wife and son disappear. Rows of silent people sit as if in a waiting room. Intermittently, a woman (Meredith Blackburn) who may represent his wife or his fate, dances through the space..

 He speaks directly to us, reading from what could be a police statement. Is it a confession? A breakdown? Is his family alive or dead? This piece the most difficult and remains a little too obscure. But it deals with irrational or unresolved fears and the desperate needs of humanity when it hits rock bottom.

By Kate Herbert