‘Concussion’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by August 13, 2014

‘Concussion’ is a very dark comedy (?) – With attitude! The audacious and sensitively courageous Australian playwright, Ross Mueller, wrote it. In 2002, he was a member at the International Residency of the Royal Court Theatre in London.

This play is an Ellandar Production. Ellandar, which was founded in 2010 by WA-based actors, Elliott Cook and Iskandar R. Sharazuddin, in the past few years they have taken WA theatre to new levels, by producing many difficult and challenging plays.

‘Concussion’ was the Winner of the 2009 New York New Dramatists’ Award, and here in Australia it was shortlisted three times for the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award. Mueller is also the winner of the ‘Wal Cherry Play of the Year’ and a Griffin Prize.

This highly controversial, 85-minute play is being presented in the Blue Room Main Theatre at 53, James Street, Northbridge each evening at 7.00 pm until the 30th August.

The walls are black and white, and there is a contemporary rug on the floor of Caesar’s flat. The furnishings are scarlet. To the left there is a café setting and the corner of the local park. (Designer Iona McAuley).

 

          A young woman, Julia (Nichola Renton) is cradling an older man’s head in her arms. The man is Caesar (Richard Mellick), the last decent cop – and person – in the city. He comes round but is severely concussed, having no idea what happened the previous night, but is fairly sure that it was Bob Dylan or Madonna that did the deed on behalf of Bin Laden.

         It becomes clear that Julia is Caesar’s new partner, she is a GP and that is why he has been allowed home to recover. Also in the house is Caesar’s 15 years old son, Sergio (Danen Engelenberg), a lazy lout that watches computer porn all day. At other times, Sergio is making love to – although truly it is just screwing – a much older woman, Katerina (Russya Connor) who has just left her long-time partner, James Jnr (Paul Grabovac), who is devastated.

         James Jnr goes to see his selfish, and quite vile, brother, James Jnr, Jnr (Ian Bolgia) who is trying to reach a divorce settlement with his wife, GP Julia.

         Bit by bit Caesar tries to put his life back together, but when the modern world is full of self-interest, greed, con men, the process could take a long time. The standards of yesteryear have gone forever. Is the world morally bankrupt?

The play, in a tortuous way, goes back to show us what happened on the night of the attack. The actors jump around the time scale by hours, and in other scenes, they will be the unseen people in the room, with concussed Caesar conversing with them whilst carrying on a passionate conversation with Julia. The audience may find the continuity or chronology strange, but this is how Caesar is experiencing the situation. Director Sarah McKellar has done an amazing job. Despite the complexity of the script, with the help of movement director, Katya Shevtsov, she keeps the pace rattling along.

Beth Ewell’s lighting was sensitive and helped isolate areas of the stage. The subtle, background music from ‘The Men from another Place’ created a wonderful mood.

The sex scenes are mainly inferred, with no nudity, but still very much in your face. Danen has a jaw-dropping, lengthy and foul monologue that he delivers perfectly and with actions. This gave the play the necessary light lift in the middle.

The characters became increasingly objectionable, with some of their attitudes, choices and actions leaving the audience breathless.

The final scene with Julia and Caesar was powerful and stunning. Not the easiest play to follow, but the acting and production was generally exceptional.

Quality theatre but certainly not for everyone.