In the tumultuous times that we live in, society usually turns to the arts for refuge and in some cases guidance. Escapism has become one of our vices that we employ to get us through the hard times. Nowadays, theatre has become a vehicle in which we can challenge our audiences and to allow all perspectives of any given issue to be voiced and received.
Patient 12 written by Kevin Summers is a brand new work hot off the press that has been featured in the 2014 La Mama season at the Carlton Courthouse Theatre, directed by Don Mackay. The play is set in the aftermath of World War 1 and follows the story of Patient 12 who has come back to Australia inches from death, disfigured and unrecognizable. The only identifiable feature is the letter D which has been tattooed to the nameless soldier’s chest. Families who are believed to be possible relations of the patient are summoned by Doctor Thomas to come and determine whether he can be claimed. A middle classed husband and wife, a bar maid, an internationalist father and a shell-shocked ex-solder all attempt to envision the defaced digger as their own. With this melting pot of class, opinions and values, Patient 12 gives contrasting views on how much we are willing sacrifice to win a war.
The text of the play is engaging and natural. That said however, there are some minor structural problems which do somewhat hinder the delivery of the story. In act one, the audience is faced with multiple lengthy monologues, which have been placed directly one after the other. This coupled with the fact that the staging and lighting is repetitive for each of the monologues denotes for slight loss of attention to what is actually being said.
Transitions from scene to scene were a little clunky which also created tiny hurdles within the flow of the story.
The acting in the show was great overall with some incredible individual performances. Special mentions go to Joel Parnis who played Percy, the shell-shocked soldier who was hauntingly believable and Will Ewing who donned all the other character’s perceptions of Patient 12, the versatility that was delivered was astounding.
Unfortunately, Doctor Thomas, who’s scenes drive the story paused often, which resulted in many instances of the dramatic tension being lost. The standout performance came from Dennis Coard who played Edward Denmann, the internationalist with such conviction that the audience were with him from start to finish.
All in all, Patient 12 is a wonderful new Australian piece in which a strong message about patriotism and remembrance will find a home in all of us. The show runs until 11th May at the La Mama Courthouse. Tickets available at www.lamama.com.au