Theatre on a Horse present their last show ever at the Owl and Cat
"The world's a prison and Denmark one of the worst wards," declares Hamlet.
"Perhaps," Susan, aka Dollface, might reply, "but it's not nearly so bad as a pretty suburb I know in Melbourne."
Susan and James (Trelawney Edgar and James Cerche) – two disaffected teenagers shrugging and slouching their way through the final years of high school – are united by a passionate disgust for the suburbs in which they were raised. Susan is particularly repulsed by her mother (Kristina Benton), a woman struggling to come to terms with mediocrity and loneliness. James, on the other hand, is a smiling diablo, driven toward anarchy by a vaguely described childhood trauma. Between angstful speeches decrying conformity and manicured lawns, the two charge precipitately – and somewhat hysterically – into violent rebellion.
Playwright and director Christopher Bryant's vision is hyperbolic, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but also rather unimaginative, which is, and the palpable sense of frustration that shapes the story seems not so much to spring from Susan and James's restlessness as the playwright's own struggle to find a natural and sincere way of presenting his ideas and feelings.
Shakespeare appears to be a guiding light, but regular references to the Bard are more of a hindrance to Bryant, whose sensibility is, I think, led into clumsy affectation by the lure of Shakespearean tragedy. Acidtongue is at its best not when it aims at monologues, phantasmagoria, profundities and fine sounding lines, but when it plunges into the horror of boredom. The scenes where Susan and her mother argue in childish fragments, for example, are difficult to watch, self-loathing leaking in from all sides, but they have far more truth in them than anything else in this play (although Christian Hoegh as a somewhat absurd interrogator nearly steals the show with his comic touch).
By all means refuse to paint the idyll, but you can't burn down the suburbs and start stabbing people just because you're not quite comfortable with how comfortable life in Armadale, or wherever else, seems. Ultimately, that makes for a simplistic kind of escapism.