Thursday, October 20, 2011

Writer's Block Review

Writer’s Block
By Tom Moran

Douglas Briggs sits alone with a typewriter. He is trying to write, it isn’t working and then he hears a cough. He isn’t alone. From this initial set up Tom Moran leads the audience and Douglas on a journey into the mind of a lost writer who cannot face reality. Within this world we meet an assortment of characters that form different elements of Douglas’ psyche, the most prominent his Imagination. As we travel through his mind and his memory we learn things about Douglas and start to piece together how a man such as he has ended up in such a confusion.

The characters that surround Douglas are caricatured and wonderfully exaggerated to the point where it is Douglas himself that does not make sense in this world – he needs to work his way through it, destroy his writer’s block and escape. However he as a writer should know that no narrative is ever that simple and no matter how confronting and insane this inner reality nothing can compare to his actual one. This we discover is even more heart-breaking in light of the zany hilarity that permeates so much of this play. Only a writer would create such a story-world to escape what he fears most.

This play was written with an assured hand, it is bursting at the seams with comedy, the laughs coming in many layers of the writing and performance. I don’t think that I have laughed for such an extended period for a long time. I think the success of it lies in the variety of the amusement – there was physical comedy; puns; jokes; costume fun; slap-stick; metatheatrical asides; situational comedy; clever retorts; gross eating; silly toast; wit – there was a barrage of humour really! And yet it was very artfully constructed and was ultimately useful in the context of the narrative.

A play as manic as this one needs strong casting and this was a cast more than up to the challenge. My personal favourite characters were the Sense of Loyalty and Adventure but equally everyone in this play was delightful in different ways with the excellent use of double casting. Orestes Kouzof was frequently hilarious and insanely spontaneous as one should be playing Imagination; Sam Holland pulled off the uniquely fabulous feat of two characters at the opposite ends of what is socially acceptable; Tom O’Sullivan played silly and straight and American with aplomb; Ali Dunk managed to both contort his face and his body into the weird and wonderful; Nadia Newstead shined with a (quite incredibly) rigid focus across all her many characters; Michael Clarke played both the old, innocent and prurient with clear relish; and amongst all of this chaos Naomi Richardson brought love and reason with Emily to Jo Wright who as Douglas existed in a suitably bewildered state of one who is in his situation.   

There was directorial vision to this work; the best of these actors were brought out not only with the writing and performance but the staging by Ant Cule and Tom Moran and the obvious work of the rest of the production team. There was neat set design, great costuming and the production values of sound and light were used to great effect. It is a brave decision to turn out the all the lights in a theatre but it worked and is a scene that typified the slightly insane but very well executed feel of the entire play.

Writer’s Block is a play that draws parallels in theme to The Wonderful World of Dissocia but it leaves the choice to leave the fantasy to the character. In light of the whimsy, hilarity and memories that we have seen it is possible even with our own Sense of Reason that we might want to stay with the comfort of Douglas’ Imagination.

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