Vaulting ambitions from young company
By Warwick Moffat
Nice Productions view themselves as a response to a banal entertainment scene. Their plays address the big issues and frequently contain low-level violence, sexual themes or profanity. They strive to offer different perspectives, with theatre that generates genuine feelings within the audience rather than merely entertains. In this sense, they are part of the absurdist theatre tradition. Their latest production King In Exile by Bradley Klendo seeks to provide that alternate view on the big issues of multiculturalism, racism and the tall-poppy syndrome.
In an attempt to express his frustration with a world full of prejudice and mediocrity, a playwright (Raj Joseph) falls into the chaos of his own rough draft as the divide between fiction, reality and dreams become blurred and then altogether disappear. His hero, an Intergalactic King (Thomas Kay) without a realm, is confronted by the Antagonist (Alex Rouse), three Shakespearean witches (Linda Zilinskas, Sarah Nathan-Truesdale, Gabriella Imrich), a sado-masochistic couple (Lisa Dallinger, Nicholas Politis) and a fellow migrant (Sahil Saluja).
Arguments, murderous threats and physical struggle abound; as do occasionally indulgent monologues. Amongst all this, there is a serious message worthy of telling but often lost in the hullabaloo. Many stories about racism place a halo around the victim, but King In Exile suggests some who complain about prejudice and mediocrity can themselves become guilty of a kind of elitism; an arrogant view that no-one can truly understand them. That is a very challenging idea with serious artistic depth.
The performances from the cast varied, but I suspect this was less a reflection on their talent and more on the difficult material. While lacklustre during some of the monologues, the stagecraft was often quite impressive when the play provided dramatic action to work with. Nicholas Politis gave a consistently strong performance in the tough role of an emotionally confused sexual submissive.
Fringe Festival is an opportunity for left-of-centre productions to get an airing, and this play is not out-of-place here. On a number of occasions, the director (Vlady T) achieved his aim of inciting audience response. In parts it was titillating, it sometimes surprised and amused.
The trick with absurdism is to both confront and engage. This is typically done by presenting absurd dialogue and action, but doing so with a storyline structure that is familiar enough to the audience. The true masters of surreal fiction can get away with having an absurd structure, but even they then accept the need to offer the audience familiar dialogue and action. This is an important trade-off. If your dialogue, action and structure is absurd you run the serious risk of losing your audience. With King In Exile, Nice Productions show promise, if they can master the rules before breaking them and embrace the theatre techniques that guide an audience through the absurdity.
Dates: Wed 24th to Sat 27th Sept
Location: The Clover Club, Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park
Tickets: $26 Full, $21 Conc.
To book, visit melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/king-in-exile or call (03) 9660 9666 OR visit gasworks.org.au or call (03) 9699 3253.