Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Jun 1 – 18, 2023
Playwright: Jojo Zhou
Director: Eve Beck
Cast: Meg Clarke, Jane Mahady, Luke Leong-Tay, Loretta Kung, Carlos Sanson Jr
Images by Phil Erbacher
Lou is a mess, living in a rundown apartment and unable to keep a job. Granted she is only in her very early 20s and has lots of time to figure things out. However as a mother of a small child, the pressure is on for her to get her act together. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, Lou has an artificial intelligence assistant device at home, a device referred to as House, who zealously offers assistance with anything Lou might need, including its highly questionable form of psychotherapy.
Jojo Zhou’s Porpoise Pool is an idiosyncratic work, with quirky humour and surrealist elements that cleverly express its central anxieties. The play is consistently fascinating, full of charm and creativity, and it gradually elicits our investment in its imperfect hero, even though the text may require some editing to tighten the journey. Direction by Eve Beck places emphasis on the funny and bizarre dimensions of the show, to deliver something satisfying in its unconventionality.
A set by Soham Apte, along with costumes by Lily Mateljan, address the slightly off-kilter quality of Lou’s world, just theatrical enough to provide a sense of elevation, without ever being too on the nose. Tyler Fitzpatrick’s lights and Clare Hennesy’s sounds are impressive with the level of detail they deliver, to subtly shape our focus and our responses, to a show that switches gear regularly, and elegantly.
Actor Meg Clarke turns Lou’s deficiencies into great entertainment. She is completely believable, with an extraordinary instinct, effortless in her ability to make every line of dialogue and every gesture, seem meaningful and captivating. The supporting cast comprises Jane Mahady, Luke Leong-Tay, Loretta Kung and Carlos Sanson Jr, all of whom embrace the unique tone of Porpoise Pool, for a show that is simultaneously thoughtful and wonderfully weird.
Lou is never more aware of her faults, than when faced with her responsibilities as a parent. There is no question about her lack of readiness for motherhood, but it can certainly be considered true, that no person will ever be sufficiently prepared for that experience. It is fanciful to say that Lou should not have gone through with her unplanned pregnancy, because people every where every day, birth babies in imperfect situations, and will continue to do so. We want perfect parents to have perfect offspring, but the truth is that, we can only ever be human.