Saturday, July 15, 2017

Theatre: Tamagotchi Reset & Other Doomsdays (★★★½)

Written by Finn O’Branagain and Scott Sandwich
Directed by Joe Lui
Designed by Sara Chirichilli
Performed by Paul Grabovac and Izzy McDonald
Blue Room Theatre
Until July 8

Programmes are useful things, but they can give the game away.
So, for example, if I’d read mine before watching Finn O’Branagain and Scott Sandwich’s Tamagotchi Reset & Other Doomsdays I would have realized much earlier than I did that the characters being played by the actors Paul Grabovac and Izzy McDonald were the playwrights themselves.
It would quite likely also have dawned on me that the play it appeared we were watching wasn’t a play at all, rather, in the writers’ own words, a “Secretly-Educational Devised Performance Lecture”, and that the play, the actual play, was about their relationship, their artistic conflicts and divergent concerns, and the process (including their interactions with the dramaturg and director Joe Lui) by which their work arrived on the stage.

The lecture O’Branagain and Sandwich have cobbled together is all about extinction and annihilation, doomsday stories about the dinosaurs and the Yucatan meteor, the collapse of the Easter Island civilization, the capriciousness of various Gods in the mythologies, right through to the ecological disasters we are visiting on ourselves as we slash and burn our way through the planet (which, in any case, is only a few billion years away from becoming a supernova-swallowed cinder).
The image of the Great Barrier Reef as a gigantic canary in the coalmine we’ve gone and dug ourselves may not be new, but it’s as chilling as always here.
As Lui remarks, also in the unread programme, “the post-apocalypse is so passé right now”, (as is, let me add, its pesky little cousin, dystopia), and if that’s all Tamagotchi was about, it would have precious little to recommend it.
But the interplay between the idealistic Finn (Grabovac) and cynical Scott (McDonald), the negotiations between them over the Why, What and How of playmaking, is smart and intriguing, even if it takes time to identify and unpick.
Grabovac is one of our most singular actors; his craft is his artlessness, and he gets better and better. McDonald has taken a great leap since her breakthrough in the award-winning Bus Boy at this year’s Fringe, and here she is cute and feisty, coquettish and not a little glamorous. They make a great stage couple.
So beware. If you see Tamagotchi (and there’s lots of reasons why you should), be sure to read the programme first.

This review appeared in The West Australian 25.6.17

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