A wry, absurdist take on the celebrity life
By Myron My
The Malthouse Theatre production of Declan Greene’s Pompeii, L.A. follows the fortunes of a troubled young child star after a terrible accident leaves him in hospital. Green looks at the influence and effects Hollywood has on such young impressionable people and speculates as to the ultimate fate that most of them will meet.
To begin with, Nick Schlieper’s slick set design was flawless: I would go so far as to say it was right up there with the most impressive stage designs I have seen. There was so much attention paid to detail and ensuring the environment was as real as possible. Having such extravagant sets did run the risk of a clumsy transition with getting rid of and adding so many props and pieces, but scene changes were executed well and went very smoothly.
Also worth mentioning was the great play across such a large space. There were lavish scenes that spread out all over the stage which did create a sort of divide between us and the action and whether this was intentional or not, it worked well. In contrast, the scenes in the hospital which used a much a smaller space and moved closer to the audience created that intimacy and solitude one would expect.
I did find the story a little hard to follow, even somewhat convoluted. I appreciate what Greene was attempting to do in showing the surrealism existing between celebrity life and real life and exploring what can happen when the two worlds blur together but as an average audience member I was left wondering what was going on quite a few times which detracts from being able to immerse oneself into the experience.
However, what the story lacked was more than made up by the actors, in particular David Harrison as the unnamed protagonist. Harrison played the role with realism and honesty, especially his scenes in hospital. Even when he was surrounded by exaggerated caricatures of people in those scenes, he still maintained the humanity and true emotion of his character. Belinda McClory was also great with her opening cameo as Judy Garland and continued to impress with the other characters she portrayed throughout. There were times I was unsure if there was a different actor performing, such were her chameleon ways.
Overall, Pompeii, L.A. is a thought-provoking production and considering how strongly obsessed our culture is with celebrities and their lifestyles, it’s an interesting piece of theatre that is well worth watching.
Venue: The Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St, Southbank
Season: Until 9 December | 7:30pm, Sat 2:30pm, Sun 5:30pm
Tickets: $58 Full | $48 Concession | $28 Student