Adelaide Fringe 2012
Two short plays about families and couples dealing with the obstacles of insomnia and amnesia accompanied by live music make for a haunting and evocative evening. Jean has amnesia and his wife, Ellen, tries to make the best of the situation with little success. In an outback town, Esther struggles to hide her Fatal Familial Insomnia from her son, Sam, while her brother, Nate, reluctantly takes on the responsibilities as head of the household.
This is a modern play that explores the two philosophies through everyday lives and characters. The first play is a frustratingly repetitive dialogue between husband and wife, Jean and Ellen, as the story of his debilitating amnesia slowly unfolds. Ellen wonders if Jean is an enlightened being, living in the moment, while Jean is a confused, frustrated character who spits out his rage through alliterations and onomatopoeia. Their lives are a desperate circle, which abruptly starts at the beginning thanks to Jean’s sudden lapses in memory. In the second play, when Esther’s worst fears are realised, her fighting spirit is weakened by her despair and mirrors the bleak, lonely town she lives in. Her son is confused by the change in his beloved mother, and enraged by his uncle’s assumption as head of the household. Three different characters are driven apart only to come together at the bittersweet end.
The script had hauntingly beautiful dialogue that was sometimes cut with rough, sharp language that at times felt forced. However, the soundtrack and music score set the ambience with enchanting harmonies and melodies. The striking contrast between the characters from the first play and second was an abrupt reminder of the differences and there was nothing to link the two stories, leaving audience to wonder about ‘what if’ situations and ponder the underlying messages.
The actors gave brilliant performances, staying true to the characters they were given and maintaining that illusion throughout the two plays. The modern play elements were present in the characters and setting, with simple but mesmerising props and staging. The direction was fantastic; every character moved with a purpose and for a reason. Movements and sounds were rarely wasted or redundant. Moods were conveyed effectively in the space through the smallest glance and background detail.
Although the plays were somewhat disjointed and isolated from each other, the actors gave believable and passionate performances. The soundtrack, staging and lighting set the mood for each play and were expertly coordinated. Overall, it was an enjoyable evening with interesting thoughts and ideas that could have been explored in more depth and detail had the two plays been connected or if they had intertwined and prompted each other.