I was offered comp tickets to last night’s opening of “… a most curious dream” and you’ll have to bear with a confusing review as it’s a somewhat confusing production.
Written by Adam Hadley (or “Hadley” as he’s known to most in the Phoenix) and directed by the local theatrical luminary Jordan Best this is a challenging but rewarding work by Centrepiece Theatre.
It was developed using the “Pulse” process, where (as I understand it) the actors, through a series of workshops, add elements to physical motions while breaking down boundaries (no I don’t understand it, yes I’m cribbing from the program).
So we have an experimental acting method applied to a play about a dream. Perhaps predictably, the upshot of this is both confusing and filled with sex, violence, humour, and inflatable fish.
Dilbert once observed that there is nothing in this world so dull as listening to someone else’s dreams. It’s a tribute to Hadley that the dream related touches on so many common elements to our own collective unconscious that it’s not so much his dream, or the actors, as it is everyone’s. The emotional underpinning of our sleeping minds; fear, sexual desire, anger, confusion, hope, are cleverly mixed to draw the audience into the dreamscape.
The work is quite skillful in that, like a dream, each element can be quite nonsensical while at the same time working to an over-arching theme. Just like, when you try and actually explain a dream to someone, it doesn’t seem to make as much sense as it did when you first woke up.
The monologues which pepper “… a most curious dream” are funny, original, and insightful examinations of the human condition and even if you aren’t interested in an experimental play about a dream they’re worth the price of admission as delivered by the excellent cast.
The use of choreography to highlight unspoken themes is clever. Sparse props are used evocatively. Costume is cleverly and evocatively done to guide the audience through the complicated workings of the dream. After all dreams are about archetypes so the unshaven man in the knitted beanie with ear flaps is going to be a nutter.
Which brings me to the (simulated) sex. It’s all nasty. Most of it is brutal rape and the one movement towards romantic sex is aborted in a psychotic fit. Even in this jaded age it is sufficient to shock and make the audience wonder where they should be parking their eyes.
The nasty nature of the sex is particularly unsettling as the program notes the sponsorship of the play by Adult World and the Fyshwick Video & DVD Warehouse.
It’s conceivable this sponsorship just ran to the mostly clever use of blow up dolls and sex toys (for example a potato masher made of a dildo being used by a repressed housewife) but that is not made clear in the program.
“… a most curious dream” is genuinely funny in parts and clever in many others. While bleak at it’s core it does offer us, in the closing, a glimmer of hope. Which is all we can really ask for in this world.
Die hard Monty Python fans will particularly enjoy the “theatre of the absurd” elements.
It’s running at the Street Theatre until 23-SEP-06.
More details here.