Sprawling and ambitious
By Christine Young
NagL, or Not a Good Look, is intended to represent writer Lech Mackiewicz’s impressions of the changes he observed in Australia after leaving in the late 1990s and returning in 2002. This is an Australia that has progressively become less progressive in its acceptance of multiculturalism, to state the obvious.
NagL/Not a Good Look means: to describe something as unacceptable, foul, disastrous, inappropriate, or awkward. And this is what’s dished up. Five actors portray several generations of a dysfunctional multicultural family who are in a constant state of disconnect; they are unable to communicate without shouting or talking at each other. They are supposed to be grotesque. And they are supposed to reflect us back to ourselves.
About three quarters of the way through Not a Good Look, actor Miles Paras’s character holds a mirror up to herself and is astounded and upset about how awful she looks. Mirror in hand, she starts a chant with words to the effect of: “live theatre is supposed to show us ourselves in caricature”.
So the vision presented in Not a Good Look is one of a nation at war with itself and what it means to be Australian. The play is structured into 20-odd scenes which are punctuated with the familiar ding! ding! of a boxing ring while the disjointed family goes through motions of their mundane existence. Sometimes, scenes begin with the Hey Dad! television show theme playing ironically in the background.
This an attempt at absurdist theatre with a lot of nonsensical conversations and scenarios occurring in the backdrop of a suburban kitchen and living room.
Unfortunately, the goals of the play aren’t quite realised. At best, it’s organised chaos. At worst, it tries to deliver too many layers of meaning and symbolism so the main message is lost. For instance, the final scene of the play had the characters in costume including a statue of liberty with a barbeque on a barge while Angry Anderson’s Suddenly played. It came out of nowhere and seemed an unlikely ending to the play.
There were some enjoyable aspects to the play such as the tango routine with Paras and Joseph Sherman. However, I wonder if this is a play that needs to be seen more than once in order to understand and engage with it properly.
Venue: Metanoia Theatre, Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Dates: Until October 18, 2015
Tickets: $25 Full / $20 /2 for $25 Wednesdays