Melbourne Fringe 2017
TRAPS: a romantic comedy for the modern sociopath is a three act play, written and directed by Amelia Evans, is making its world premier at Melbourne Fringe.
Set in a surreal veterinary clinic (that doubles up as a pet store and animal refuge for strays) in suburban Melbourne, TRAPS is a romantic comedy with a black heart about the pursuit of true love, self-harm and a 400kg saltwater crocodile called Polly. TRAPS unfolds within an unsettling world, dominated by a central, unchecked man, dealing with generations of oppression.
We meet Stephanie (Marissa O’Reilly), the animal-loving vet’s assistant with a penchant for swallowing odd things as she settles the menagerie with her morning rounds. She is (understandably) hesitant around Polly who needs feeding. When the enigmatic Joe (Rachel Perks) arrives at work, he hastens to feed Polly with, well, whatever he can find in the pet store. The product of an overly zealous father, Stephanie is enamoured by the instantaneously infuriating Joe who plays her like a fiddle in this budding workplace dalliance.
Joe lives with his mother and can do nothing right by her – as she is quick to remind him at every opportunity. Domineering and demanding, she keeps Joe on a tight leash.
Stephanie’s unwanted competition for Joe’s affection, and Joe’s new conquest, arrives another day in the veterinary clinic. Julia (Charles Purcell) brings in an injured chihuahua which has been shot with a crossbow. If misery loves company, Julia has come to right place. Orphaned through murder-suicide at age 3, she’s raised herself to be an accomplished warrior, resplendent with crossbow wielding street smarts. With three unhinged characters in close confines, what can possibly go wrong?
All three are the product of their individual abusive and tragic upbringings and where this play gets it right is that it forces you rank each one of these characters as their respective psychoses unfold with at times hilarious and at times quite traumatic consequences.
The play is narrated by Tom Dent, who is visually and verbally ever present. He is sublime in keeping the tempo and the mood of the entire experience, um, light. Perks and Purcell play their characters against gender and they do this incredibly effectively. It’s a standout effort on their behalf.
Although the set is sparse, the audio fills in all the information you need (even if it at times drowns out the narrative) as they transition from the veterinary clinic to Joe’s mother’s house (and basement) to Stephanie’s derelict abode. The sound effects and original composition adds to the discomfort of the play very well.
Amelia Evans’ script deftly weaves humour and heavy subject matter which results in an absurdist delight. Think Psycho meets Silence of the Lambs meets Scary Movie for this zany and crazy and utterly enjoyable comedy. Let’s all be collectively thankful we haven’t happened into this veterinary clinic accidentally.