After their very successful season, Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre, along with director Robert Chuter and original cast, bring this Ball play billed as 'our eternal search for belonging' back to Chapel Off Capel.
Clearly the play has resonated loud and clear among audiences, enough to warrant an encore performance, but what is that makes this play so profoundly special. Director Chuter says he was hooked before his first reading.
"I was shown the play by a colleague, who brought it back from LA as an impulse buy on his last day. Being a long-time Alan Ball fan because of 'Six Feet Under' and True Blood', I was intrigued and when I read it, the themes of cultural provocation, loneliness and alienation in the sensitive time of post-nine eleven America were just too good to resist. I mean, who else has that kind of courage to be able to tackle these subjects with such scathing black humour that you can't help but laugh out loud before being moved to tears? In addition to this, the fact that our two protagonists have the ability to save each other, as long as the truth is kept at bay for as long as possible. You can only tread water with lies for so long, eventually the truth comes out and you have to face it. And I have a brilliant cast of actors – all talented and fearless."
The play's central character is Omar who sells cell phones by day and sexual fantasies by night. He is a hustler but confounded when the possibility of true intimacy comes his way. It is a story about the human condition and all the foibles that go along with it. As such, it touches our humanity and therein may lie its favourable significance formany. Says Chuter: " There's so much to relate to here: I know that's a fairly typical answer for a director to give when interviewed about a play he's directed, but it really is true. It's everyday, modern fears, insecurities and joys brought out into the open it can be a little close to home. I've been directing for thirty-five years and it's only ever once in a while that a play comes along your way that you feel you're the only one who can tell it. It might not be something overt in the play – a line, a moment, a speech – that makes you want to tell this story to it's fullest. It's very satisfying, and I will always be fond of this wonderful play, it marks a special time for me in my life. I think every audience member who has seen it – whether they hate it or like it – have left with something to ponder. The play is loaded with much empathy and sometimes bursts with blunt compassion and is often heartbreaking and hilarious simultaneously."
Like the majority of Ball's work, it is an emotional ride which demands the utmost commitment from the actors. Ball is a brave, energetic and specific writer who challenges both actor and audience alike. Chuter's job was to actualize Ball's blue print while the actors gave it emotional life. " The actors had to jump into the complete emotional deep end here and develop a truthful and realistic relationships, but they were ravenous," states Chuter. "The play demands the actor's utter commitment and for them to shed all their inhibitions (including their clothes!) and show us themselves was liberating and emotive. Next was to keep the staging all simplistic, but effective – to make it flow like a film from scene to scene with ease. Accents: American's a bit of an underestimated beast. I know we're surrounded by it all the time and we hear so much of it, we forget how difficult and how subtle the accent actually is. There's a lot to take onboard and even the slightest thing will give the actors away. The whole cast has spent hours refining the subtleties of the speech. It might seem pedantic, and it is, but it's essential. Ball's dialogue is very specifically written that to try and cheat it into and Australian accent (or any other for that matter), it wouldn't work and the audience wouldn't hear the play. No one else talks like that, in those rhythms, or with those habits and the only way you can delve it, is in the accent it was intended for."
Chuter is himself an experimentalist, preferring to challenge and surprise audience over adhering to the principles of conventional theatre. Ball's work has been a delight for Chuter and, he admits, it has been a long time since he has worked with writing this subtle and clever. " The characters and scenes are constantly throwing surprises your way, things you never spotted the first few times. When you discover moments or dimensions like that, you build on them, explore them hungrily. It's kept me on my toes and forced me to be inventive on the spot – but then a great cast helps with their contributions. It's a very hard play to shake off, don't know why, it lingers with you – but it's a very good thing. I love playing around with different ideas and pushing the boundaries of a piece of theatre. In fact, I've done that most of my career. In the case of this play however, there are already so many layers to explore and Ball has something very clear and important to say – so why mess with it? The writing works on so many levels – mainly because if its fine precision. You don't want to change a word, although on some occasions the actors and I have added new intentions sparkled by an idea already placed in the text."
If you didn't catch this play the first time around, I would highly recommend a viewing. Says Chuter: " Come see something challenging, funny, tender, confronting, charming and unnerving all at the same time. A special gem of a production is waiting for you, come see why we did it a second time."
All That I Will Ever Be Chapel off Chapel August 1 – 12