Review: Brothers Karamazov (Arrive. Devise. Repeat)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Dec 6 – 16, 2017
Playwright: Richard Crane (based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel)
Director: Viktor Kalka
Cast: Alice Birbara, Ryan Devlin, Patrick Howard, and Lucia May
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
There are only so many conclusions a person can come to, when contemplating the existence of God. In Richard Crane’s adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, an enormous novel is condensed, leaving only its big philosophical ideas feebly accompanied, by futile episodes of theatre that can only seem reductive in their attempts to make a point.

The depiction of religious struggle in Brothers Karamazov is timeworn, although clearly persistent in its relevance to millions, who continue to structure their lives around all things mystical and illusory. It is an attractive production, with ambitious work across all design faculties from Liam O’Keefe’s lavish lighting to Victor Kalka’s evocative set. Often beautiful and alluringly moody, our senses are kept attentive, even when our minds withdraw from engagement.

Four actors play a range of characters, with unfortunately confusing results. Unable to sufficiently identify the personalities we encounter, the show takes an inordinately long time to establish coherence. Nonetheless, it is a compelling cast, each one full of energetic conviction. Patrick Howard is particularly memorable, with an arresting presence, determined to entertain.

A world in which everything is permissible, is doubtlessly frightening. Self-preservation requires that we invest, in the name of safety and order, in social contracts that we think to be noble, but whether state or religion, the institutions we exalt, never fail to overreach with the powers they are accorded. The same instruments we need for protection, are used invariable to oppress. To keep them constantly monitored is paramount and to have them regularly dismantled and refreshed, is arduous but critical.

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Review: Tender Indifference‏ (Arrive Devise Repeat)

arrivedeviserepeatVenue: PACT Theatre (Erskineville NSW), Sep 8 – 12, 2015
Playwright: Arrive Devise Repeat (after Albert Camus)
Director: Alexis Hammerton, Victor Kalka
Cast: Joanne Coleman, Ryan Devlin, Alexis Hammerton, Patrick Howard, Victor Kalka, Troy Kent
Image by Jack Gorman

Theatre review
Through the absurd, we can examine what it is that gives life a sense of coherence. Albert Camus’ L’Étranger tells of a man who does not grieve his mother’s death. In Tender Indifference, he is distanced from the world, floating through scenarios almost like an apparition, never involving his emotions with all that occurs in the environment. His alienation is ubiquitous in the play, and we struggle to find a point of connection with his story. It brushes us off, pushes us away, and only the extremely persistent can afford attention for its entirety.

Direction of the work is adventurous but lacking in maturity. Scenes are created for superficial effect, without offering enough innovation to affect fascination, and with characters and narratives that fail to engross. The cast is well rehearsed, but quality of performance is uneven. Stand-out players include Alexis Hammerton whose presence is strongest in the group, and who displays a confidence that addresses our need to be entertained. Patrick Howard takes on the more daring parts, with a flamboyance that keeps us amused. His comedy in the piece is simple and coarse, but refreshing nonetheless, in an atmosphere that aims to be comprehensively dark.

It is challenging to find value in alienation if what follows is emptiness. A work of art can have the best intentions, but if it falters with its communication, the theatrical event represents a missed opportunity. The viewer gains little from Tender Indifference, but its participants probably are conversely enriched by its process. The nature of performance however, requires a kind of partnership between those on and off stage, and both must benefit from that shared experience, no matter what the message therein may be.

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