Venue: Mantouridion Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Apr 15 – 26, 2015
Playwright: Con Nats
Director: Lex Marinos
Cast: Demitra Alexandria, Valentino Arico, John Derum, Barbara Gouskos, Adam Hatzimanolis, Richard Hilliar, Tim Ressos
Successful plays encapsulate a slice of life and represent to its audience something meaningful. Con Nats’ Haircuts is an ambitious work that tries to bring many different threads together, revealing a hunger to tell many stories and an urgency for committing a wealth of ideas to the stage. Its narrative style is conventional, but its structure is less so. Focus shifts regularly, and subplots become overwhelming, resulting in a disorienting uncertainty about the show’s main plot and its centre. There is a big emphasis on multiculturalism, which although interesting, does not contribute directly to the way key narratives unfold. Machismo is also explored thoroughly, and frequently used for laughs, but it contributes to an uncomfortable gender imbalance where all the women in the play are constantly defined against their husbands, fathers and sons.
Direction of the work by Lex Marinos is a passionate effort, and individual scenes are carefully explored, but the production does not assemble into a cohesive whole. The awkward imbalances between amusing asides that take up too much time, and poignant character developments that go past too gently, cause important elements to lose clarity and the play can often seem undecided about what it intends to convey. Performances are uneven but strong players include Barbara Gouskos who brings a beautiful gravity to the role of Angela, delivering a convincing, albeit brief, portrayal of a woman who has experienced very dark days. Her measured approach is authentically emotional and with it, she introduces to us a special and resonant moment of shared humanity. Richard Hilliar’s Stanley is a quiet and tender contrast to the clamorous goings-on, and offers up the only well-rounded personality in a throng of unoriginal stereotypes. His chemistry with co-actors can be improved, but the actor does his best to anchor the show in a position of subtlety that helps us relate to the world being depicted.
The production requires distillation, but even in its imperfect form, it is not without strengths. Some of the dialogue is beautifully deep, and much of the acting is energetic and earnest, in fact it might be said that there is often too much of a good thing, which could only lead to the ridiculously obvious conclusion that Haircuts needs a bit of shearing.