Directed by Julie Baz
The Depot Theatre
142 Addison Road, Marrickville
Season: 30 March – 16 April
Note: This review has been written on the basis of a Preview performance.
Theatre is a weird thing, in many ways – the process of going out, to sit in a room of people you don’t know, pretending that there is an invisible wall between the audience and those on the stage so that you can watch what they do in various given circumstances. Simon Dodd’s play Plaything, explores this notion with a comedic Absurdist slant. What happens when two theatregoers enter a bathroom cubicle, only to realise that they are actually stuck in a living room behind an invisible fourth wall, a barrier between them and a watching audience. They are in a dreaded play!...and they need to pee.
The occupation of ‘waiting’ is a common absurdist trope, and is one that permeates this production, directed by Julie Baz. The living room in the play embodies some sort of theatrical purgatory, where the reluctant actors are desperate to find their way out. Undoubtedly, it’s an intriguing concept and presents some notable ideas. However, there is an old adage when learning improvised theatre, that is, “Stop talking about doing something and just do it.” Translating this skill from improvised to scripted theatre, this is where I felt the play suffered. A little burdened by this passivity and waiting for action, the writing tended to slouch into talking about the difficult situation or wondering how the actors should act. When the performers are propelled out of inaction, the show is at its most engaging, and really is quite funny. Perhaps this is the point. A thousand meanings could be derived from the concept and subject’s response to the seemingly constrictive bounds of the banal living room.
We see some very quirky and enlivened performances from the whole cast, bringing amusing oddities to the table under Julie Baz’s directorial hand. These performances bring an uplifting energy to the show and trigger laughter at some of the character’s distasteful, albeit relatively logical, responses to the situation (cue some good old toilet humour). Ultimately, audiences are met with a show that asks plenty of questions and doesn’t claim to hold all the answers. Repeatedly the cast figuratively breaks down the fourth wall to speak clearly to their audience. In doing so, audiences have a chance to laugh at themselves participating in this peculiar process of theatre-going. Peculiar, and yet oh so satisfying.