The Last Great Hunt’s current production “Perpetual Wake”, written and directed by Gita Bezard and co-written by Jeffrey Jay Fowler, is a uniquely told portrayal of the competition within a marriage between two writers, played by Arielle Gray, as wife Bernice, and Chris Isaacs, as husband Paul Creel.
The problems surface when blossoming writer Fiona West (played by Charlotte Otton) ‘accidentally’ meets Paul in a bar; the same bar that Paul frequents, and he allows Fiona to stay at ‘his’ table, possibly because she just happens to be reading his book, “Crocodile”. After a very carefully worded exchange in which Paul asks to read Fiona’s book “Perpetual Wake” (instead of her having to ask him), it is evident that Paul has the tendency to remind others of his power and is quick to dish out scorn and intimidations when feeling under threat or being manipulated.
The glimpses into the relationship of husband and wife are punctuated by dream-like, fantastical moments, placing the play firmly within expressionism. We learn that these absurd moments seem to be representing aspects of ‘Fiona’s’ book, Perpetual Wake, particularly the incident when a stag is shot and killed. Without giving anything away, this incident, in its many depictions, represents more than the shooting of an animal. It seems to be offering a commentary on the types of people who arbitrarily commit acts of violence, and it is providing a vehicle for the revelations of the relationship to surface. Though it is fair to say that the writers (and performers) don’t take this commentary too seriously. In the many depictions of the shooting of the stag, mostly played by Jeffrey Jay Fowler, the often glib but very amusing interactions and exits/entrances are portrayed as mere interruptions to his mobile phone usage.
Indeed, there are many moments of humour within the seriousness of the revelations and tribulations of the central relationship. Gray and Isaacs play the straight and absurd scenes with aplomb. Equally, Charlotte Otton as Fiona skilfully portrays the woman caught between a rock and a hard place: having to placate the demands of Bernice and Paul while keeping her self-respect intact. And we get to hear Otton sing which is always a delight.
The production “Perpetual Wake” uses various techniques which create an interesting and dynamic visual spectacle, such as elements of atmospheric staging led by Bryan Woltjen’s excellent set design and complemented by the equally excellent lighting design by Karen Cook. Woltjen’s set and costume designs beautifully assist in highlighting the conventional and absurd elements in the script.
The script is skilfully constructed to show the association between the book and the relationship, however, the several short scenes demand numerous transitions which interrupt the flow and create an unevenness overall. Bezard’s precise and disciplined direction still allows all of the four performers to relish the fun of using different acting styles and they deliver with distinction.
“Perpetual Wake” is showing in the main theatre at the Subiaco Arts Centre, Hamersley Road, Subiaco until Saturday 7 September, 7pm shows.
Bookings at: www.ptt.wa.gov.au or call 6212 9292.
Photo credit: Dana Weeks