Society’s seedy underside smoothed over
By Narelle Wood
Below Babylon by Gabriel Bergmoser promised to be a gritty and fast-paced play looking at the morality of the underworld; however it wasn’t quite fast enough and had potential to be far grittier.
The play is set in a low-life bar in the alleyways of a cartel-run town from which there is no escape. Harry (Christopher Grant), the barkeeper and moral compass of the show, attempts to save his eclectic patrons, whether it is the young prostitute Lila (Nalini Vasudevan) or the wayward ex-cartel assassin Lincoln (Justin Anderson). Other assorted characters such as Mac (Hamish Buchanan), Clara (Dhania McKechnie) and Chloe (Melissa Howard) come and go in an attempt to thicken a plot based around Lincoln waiting to die.
There were a couple of inconsistencies in both setting and character portrayal that made the dystopian atmosphere a little hard to believe. For instance, the bar seemed far too clean, Lila seemed far too at ease with working the apparently dangerous streets, and Harry, who was pursuing a quieter life, was far too eager to involve himself in other people’s business. The inconsistencies in characterisation were perhaps highlighted by the wealth of experience Anderson and Buchanan each bought to the stage, both delivering completely believable performances. Likewise, what was lacking in the bar was highlighted by the impressive attention to detail in creating the right atmosphere through soundtrack, lighting and the use of props, especially the cap guns and fake-blood.
The show was completely stolen by Steve Young’s portrayal of Reagan, who epitomised the saying ‘honour amongst thieves’, and this gave credible motivation to his violent outbursts and demands of respect. Reagan’s sometimes-playful, sometimes-sinister banter with the other characters provided the tension that was lacking in the first half. The clear purpose of Reagan’s character in the plot meant that I found myself connecting with him more than any other character, and consequently I found myself wishing that evil would triumph.
Below Babylon was perhaps a bit more charcoal than noir, but if dystopian worlds are your thing then it is definitely worth a look.
Venue: Revolt Theatre, Kensington
Season: 7.30pm 19th February until 1st March (no shows Sunday or Monday)
Tickets: $25 adult