Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Pitchfork Disney

The Pitchfork Disney runs at the Sidetrack Theatre in Marrickville from December 5-9 2012. By Philip Ridley, directed by Rachel Chant.

I found it quite difficult to make heads or tails of The Pitchfork Disney. It is dreamlike and surreal and not, I think, intended to be taken literally, but it feels confused, like it’s trying to do too much. I feel like it would be twice as good if it were half as long. Rachel Chant and Eclective Productions do some interesting things with it, but I think the script ultimately hampers rather than helps them – there are sections which seem to obscure, rather than unveil, meaning.

The Pitchfork Disney is the story of 28 year old agoraphobic twins Presley (Brett Johnson) and Haley (Jessi LeBrocq). They have locked themselves in their house, venturing out only when they run out of chocolate or sleeping pills. The world terrifies them – it is strongly suggested that they have suffered significant, possibly sexual trauma related to the disappearance of their parents – and so they shut themselves away, fantasising about a future when they are the only two beings left in existence. (This production of The Pitchfork Disney is a reprise of its Sydney Fringe season – this fantasy of siblings being the last two people left alive reminded me strongly of another Fringe show, The Day The Galaxy Inevitably Exploded and Died.) But Presley is haunted by nightmares, and when he invites strangers Cosmo Disney (David Molloy) and Pitchfork Cavalier (Darren Pinks) into the house, he finds his nightmares becoming real, at once terrifying and strangely erotic.

I feel like The Pitchfork Disney tries to be too subtle for its own good. There are lots of hints in interesting directions, but they are never really fleshed out, and the subtlety gets very repetitive after a while. There are huge chunks of dialogue that could have been cut and the show would have been better for it. There are some moments which are truly striking and memorable – the scene with the cockroach, for example – but they are swallowed by the verbiage of the script. It is a script that is relying on words when it should be relying on images.

The show really hinges on Brett Johnson’s Presley, and he delivers a solid performance. At times, his motivations are unclear – at once cringing and submissive and yet somehow aggressive and a little threatening – but I think this is probably more a flaw of the writing than anything else. He has a very tough task delivering Presley’s long (LONG) soliloquy about his nightmare, and he pulls it off more than serviceably. Jessi LeBrocq also gave a great performance as Haley, and I was sad that her character spends the majority of time asleep on the sofa: it was a real waste. I had more of a question mark over David Molloy’s Cosmo – he seemed to be very much a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and it was hard to buy him as ominous, nightmarish, demonic – but his performance strengthened over the course of the show. Rachel Chant has marshalled her cast well. She has a real knack for knowing when stillness is required on the stage – a real skill – and I hope to see more work from her soon.

It’s heartening to see Fringe shows existing beyond the festival, and I’m really glad Eclective Productions managed this remount. I’m not sure this particular script is the best showcase for their abilities, but I certainly hope to see more work from this fledgling company in the near future.

Mariage Blanc

I reviewed Sydney Theatre Company's Mariage Blanc for Australian Stage - you can read what I thought (with bonus Foucault!) here.