Review: I Spied (Giant Dwarf)

I Spied IMG_0068Venue: Giant Dwarf (Redfern NSW), Nov 14 – 24, 2014
Playwright: David Callan
Director: Marko Mustac
Cast: David Callan
Image by Matthew Neville

Theatre review
David Callan worked for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization between 1986 and 1993. His script for I Spied has no shortage of amusing anecdotes and observations about his time as a desk bound spy, which is a surprising revelation as one would expect ASIO employees to be heavily restricted by confidentiality agreements that allow them to disclose little. Certainly, national secrets of any consequence are not discussed, but Callan’s personal reflections and memories of an unusual occupation are substantial enough, at least for a one man comedy routine.

The play is written well, with episodes and gags thoughtfully constructed, and the transitions between them sensitively honed. The many short and light narratives are presented with a buoyancy that keeps things engaging, even though the stakes are never very dramatic. Marko Mustac’s direction gives the production enough colour and movement without causing any distraction, and he gives Callan adventurous frameworks to explore his abilities as a performer. The actor takes time to warm up, but he is generally dynamic, with good range and commitment. He is funniest when mimicking stereotypes, creating memorable impressions of people like elderly security guards with mobility walkers and German television hosts. Confidence levels are not always consistent, and his familiarity with the text is yet to be perfected, but Callan has an earnest charm that keeps us on his side. It is noteworthy that he seems to shine brightest in the intermittent darker moments, where he talks briefly about subjects like torture and terrorism. Callan becomes immersed in his deeper thoughts, displaying an authenticity that proves to be more powerful and captivating.

I Spied strikes a chord when it talks about terrorism and technology. Callan’s description of the danger that arises from the increasing ease at which our ideologies and our physical selves travel around the world. The advancement of our civilisations are at a critical point where peoples seem to clash, quicker than before, and more often than before. As the sharing of information becomes unprecedentedly accessible, and we find ourselves in webs of deceit and contradictory truths, this is a time where restraint and compassion seem to have abandoned us… except, maybe, at the theatre.