Monday, August 20, 2012

Theatre: Certified Male

 By Scott Rankin and Glynn Nicholas
Directed by Glynn Nicholas
With David Callan, Cameron Knight, Mike McLeish and Glynn Nicholas
Regal Theatre
Until August 25

In the Peter Sellers movie, Only Two Can Play, he plays a critic who reviews shows he doesn’t attend (so, as it turns out, he can indulge in a spot of womanising). He comes unstuck when the theatre he was supposed to be at burns down.
I thought a little wistfully of my fictional predecessor while I wished I wasn’t at the Regal Theatre as this remarkably unedifying story of four reprehensible men lurched towards its unsurprising and unsatisfying end.

Along the way it delivered a barrage of tit, fart and chunder humour, she-doesn’t-understand-me or she’s-taking-me-to-the-cleaners misogyny (I am sure – I hope I’m sure – none of these people actually despises women the way their show does) and huge servings of the sort of hurt self-justification that I associate with bonding sessions in those men’s sheds that seem to be springing up wherever funding can be had.
Three of the four men in question, Jeff (David Callan), Alex (Mike McLeish) and Josh (Cameron Knight) are thrown a curve when their boss Jarrad (Glynn Nicholas) announces he’s negotiated a merger and there’s to be a corporate restructure. He then summons them to a weekend retreat, bizarrely and inexplicably at some sort of jungle/mountain/seaside resort in, of all places, Peru. There, while racing off the compliant, bare-breasted staff, enduring screeching, bottom-biting monkeys and endlessly chug-a-lugging tinnies, we are to imagine they are in a fight to the death to keep their jobs and hideous lifestyles. Except that, as it transpires, Jarrad actually loves them all, gives them his most prized possessions, makes them all partners and then sails off towards Antarctica to die poetically at sea before his terminal cancer claims him.
There’s a lot of dying, or nearly dying, at sea throughout, most jarringly in a series of monologues by Jarrad (or perhaps Nicholas as a narrator – it was hard to tell) comparing the men’s plight to that of the castaways on the Raft of the Medusa that was as trite and unrevealing a device as has ever been perpetrated on stage.
There were also emotional outbursts so cliché-riddled they threatened to crumble into dust at any instant – Jarrad’s choice to save either his drowning son or daughter; Jeff’s visit to his old dad in hospital (“I love you, son”) – and a set of songs by writers of the calibre of Paul Kelly and Mark Seymour that, disappointingly, added nothing.
And that is what is so surprising about this whole venture. There’s a lot of talent in and around it, from Nicholas and his cast, to the design and technical team. It’s all very professional and tidily executed.
The only explanation I can come up with to explain how people with all that intelligence and skill didn’t realise that what they had concocted was rubbish is so deeply insulting to its audience that I’m not prepared to air it.

An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian link here  

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