Review: Plastic (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Oct 31 – Nov 18, 2017
Playwright: Mark Rogers
Director: Sanja Simic
Cast: Nick Bartlett, Hannah Goodwin, Harry McGee, Douglas Niebling, Michelle Ny
Image by Carly Young

Theatre review
When we first meet Franz, he seems nice enough. A young scientist excited for the opportunity to discover wonderful things about the universe, he soon gets absorbed into the big machine of corporations, academia and the fourth estate, and idealism turns corrupt, as the golden boy attempts to carve out a name for himself in Mark Rogers’ Plastic.

Having little more than Franz’s personal reputation and career at stake, the context is admittedly dry, but although not a particularly moving story, Plastic is written with remarkable inventiveness and nuance. Its dialogue is consistently amusing, and the playwright’s theatrical flair concocts a range of characters that come readily to life on stage.

Sanja Simic’s exacting and energetic direction makes for a marvellously captivating show. We may not care very much for Franz’s predicament, but we find ourselves nonetheless fascinated, and thoroughly entertained by the production’s clever presentation of sequences that reveal its plot.

The spirited cast of five has a whale of a time, and we go along gleefully with their infectious exuberance. Their work is impressively well-rehearsed, and each actor demonstrates a thrilling sense of passionate conviction, along with an arresting fastidiousness required of the script. The charming Nick Bartlett keeps us attentive to Franz’s narrative even as the character proves himself to have few redeeming features. The roles are not particularly likeable, but there is no resisting the charm offensive from these players.

We often worry about our art being stifled by commercial forces, but in Plastic, we see that things are no different for those working in the field of science. Instead of discovering and cultivating the best that one has to offer the world, individuals pursue only things that promise reward and glory. With our eye on the prize, as it were, we lose sight of the bigger picture, and of greater possibilities. Innovation pertains to that which is yet unknown, but if we focus only on results already predetermined, progress will forever be suppressed.