Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Jul 15 – 26, 2015
Playwright: David Mamet
Director: Glen Hamilton
Cast: Tara Clark, Cheyne Fynn, Naomi Livingstone, Oleg Pupovac
David Mamet’s Edmond is a despicable human being. All the worst qualities a person can have are found in one awful character, who happens to hate everything and everyone, including or maybe, especially, himself. It is a simple premise for a play but a confronting one. Mamet’s conceit is extreme, almost cartoonish in its approach, which is necessary for preventing the play from ever becoming realistic and hence, plainly unbelievable. There is a tendency for the work to portray Edmond as being an everyday person, and for us to be able to identify with characteristics that he displays, but it is arguable whether the context is too alienating for audiences to be able to connect in a meaningful way.
Direction of the production is slightly surreal, and also slightly quirky. It understands the fantastical quality of the text, but does not explore its concepts with enough theatricality to prevent the play from being weighed down by a conventional realism that struggles to provide drama and excitement that could elevate a script that is persistently bleak. The repetitiveness of the plot induces a numbness in our response, which the direction allows to take effect instead of finding ways to shock us with every subsequent scene as the writing intends. In the title role is Oleg Pupovac who shows good conviction and focus, but the decision to play Edmond as an essentially unassuming guy is questionable. One is reminded of Mary Harron’s 2000 film American Psycho, and the effectiveness of its flamboyant style in establishing a quality of enthrallment within the outlandish and disturbing environment being portrayed. Although uncomfortably mild, Pupovac’s interpretation does create an interesting juxtaposition between normalcy and atrocity that is quite remarkable. The rest of the cast is required to play a large assortment of undesirables, which paves the way for a very playful stage, and correspondingly, it is when performances are daring and wild that we become engaged. Naomi Livingstone’s versatility and vibrancy help her breathe life into her characters, and her animated expressiveness strikes a resonant balance with Mamet’s writing to deliver several memorable moments.
Edmond builds to a conclusion that attempts to make sense of its own overwhelming violence and insanity, but the production seems to deflate before that crucial point, and what should have been a significant revelation is lost in an air of ambiguity. Without a pointedly communicated moral, we are left to consult our own values to achieve an understanding of the preposterous situations that had been witnessed, which means that new perspectives are probably not gained by many. Audiences are willing to participate in stories that involve challenging content and ideas, but we expect a greater than usual pay off in their aftermath. There are lots of horrible people in Edmond, and it is undeniable that the same horrible behaviour exists in real life, but encountering them voluntarily at the theatre needs to be more purposeful than catching a glimpse of silver lining.