Article Title:The Lighthouse
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:22nd July 2004 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:342
Text:The Lighthouse By Brett Simpson Dir: Matt Gillanders At The Auckland Performing Arts Centre Love, passion, lust, where would the creative arts be with out them? From the modern-day Mills and Boon bodice-rippers back through Waugh's restrained Brideshead Revisited, to Shakespeare and the Greek classics, love, passion and lust prevail. They talk to the human soul. Malcolm is feeling none of these emotions. Trying to write his second novel he looks back to his first for inspiration, and it's clearly awfull. All taut white buttocks, exotic women and manly gestures. Drivel. Not only does he have writer's block, he has a sexual block too. But, we will learn, the sexual block is a natural part of him, neither repressed nor dysfunctional. Nonfunctional. So, if sex is connected to lust and passion and all three lie behind the most captivating human stories, how can he ever hope to write anything even remotely compelling. He hits the booze and his lover, Terry, begins to quietly despair. It's a cold and stormy night. Enter two strangers, vaguely familiar, intrusive, and as troubled as Malcolm himself. Through the well-meaning but distorted ministrations of the pair, plus the upfront philosophies of Terry, Malcolm starts to confront his nature. Oddly, so do his visitors, in tandem, in the same way, at the same time. The storm passes, the world seems a more optimistic place. Youthful writer Brett Simpson has drawn on his own coming out for this script. His main character, Malcolm, realised his own sexual complexities at the same time as Simpson... the author's own emerging understandings flowed into successive drafts of The Lighthouse. From author to director to cast and crew this is a very young team, in their very early 20s is my guess, presenting a brand new, untried script in a brand new setting. There were bound to be teething troubles but ultimately the play stands up well with the performances taking the audience on a small personal journey of self-exploration and confrontation. As Malcom, Tama Boyle is personable and sometimes even charming in a Sebastian Flyte kind of way. He is at his best when throwing away lines, showing quick changes of perspective and attitude, but is less comfortable with helping us warm to Malcolm, to understand him. We have to care for Malcolm, to empathise with him, and neither script nor performer connected sufficiently with our hearts on opening night. Despite some nice moments from Rachel Somerfield and Adam Rakich as the strangers there is patchiness in the other performances too, a tendency for heads to drop, voices to loose punch and projection, not helped by lots of talking upstage. Perhaps the best character and performance of the night belonged to Terry, played by Jonathan O'Brien. Lacking punch at the beginning he soon hit his stride to became the most likable and sincere presence on stage. His gentle philosophies and quiet dedication to his troubled partner were compelling, more so as he and the whole cast settled in better during the course of the night. As a piece of theatre this was a tad patchy, with flashes of farce mixing uneasily with more naturalistic and deeply introspective moments. But as a close-up experience of a young cast and crew tackling something new and raw it was just as rewarding as the most polished production by the most experienced players. This is a production worth seeing, and if it returns in a year or so, same cast and crew of drama students and emerging writer and director, workshopped a little more, developed a step or two further, polished and tweaked, more sure of itself, it could be a compelling piece of theatre and a rare look into the process of taking theatrical risks and putting your craft on the line. PS: Audience request to the TAPAC management: please turn the thermostats up a few degrees and how about opening the refreshment counter? Jay Bennie - 22nd July 2004    
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