Review: Kayak (Cross Pollinate Productions)

crosspollinateVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 29 – Apr 9, 2016
Playwright: Katherine Thomson
Director: Adam Cook
Cast: Matthew Cheetham, Matilda Ridgway, Francesca Savige
Image by Mansoor Noor Photography

Theatre review
Desperate people do desperate things, and in Kayak, their actions are certainly outrageous. Katherine Thomson’s dark comedy features three characters, all lonely and lost, grasping at whatever crosses their paths that may contain salvation. Morals and ethics vanish when the going gets tough, and it is that process by which a person loses their mind, that provides the play with its biting humour. Thomson’s characters and dialogue are delightfully perverse and although they do not seem to make perfect psychological sense, it does provide sufficient contextual logic for us to connect with the increasingly wild stories that unfold.

Director Adam Cook’s interpretation of the work is full of energy, with attention placed on creating a lively and vibrant show. The narrative is conveyed with appropriate comedic levity, and each character is clearly defined, but the all-important humour of the production relies heavily on the cast, who do not always deliver the jokes with as much complexity as the material calls for. Matilda Ridgway is strongest, and very clever with the way she enacts the many surprises written for her character Wen. It is a charming performance, with an exaggerated quirkiness that is both theatrical and captivating. All players are passionate and determined to portray intense emotion, but the show lacks a certain melancholy. There are lots of tears, but we do not feel their sadness, and it is that sadness that is central to all the high jinks that transpire.

Wen, Ruth and Luke are dysfunctional people, crippled by misfortune. We identify with their pain because the causes of their troubles are all familiar. At the root of their many shenanigans are setbacks and misery that have descended upon us at one time or another, and while we may not express our grief in such dramatic fashion, the fantastical events they go through somehow ring true, perhaps relating to the fears we have about not being able to spring back, of not having enough resilience to cope with life. They crumble and fall into disaster, and we watch knowing that we are the lucky ones, if only for the moment, because disaster does happen, and people do break.