The Adventures of Dead Jim / This Place
Bad Company @ The Bakehouse Theatre (Studio)
6:30pm, Fri 20 Mar 2009
Bad Company, a local company of international composition, brought me to the Bakehouse – as far east in the city as I was prepared to brave at this hour of the day. Sure, I’d be heading down Rundle Street around midnight, but hopefully at least some of the post-Clipsal bogan hordes would have dispersed by then.
The first piece of the evening, The Adventures of Dead Jim, evoked curiousity from the opening seconds: three revellers stumble into their loungue room, Jim trips – and is dead. And, for the first couple of minutes at least, there’s a few Weekend at Bernie’s-style laughs to be had, but when the play adopts a repetitive drugs are bad, mmm-kay tone, it’s snooze time… the only interruption being a massive emotion-wracked whack on the floor.
At least Jim is wonderfully un-acted; his living cohorts, Liz and Louis, are hopelessly mechanical as they take turns lamenting their mistakes – drugs, neglect, debasement – to the corpse. And that’s about as kind as I can be about this portion of the programme; it really was sub-par, going nowhere and providing little.
Luckily, the second piece in this double-header, This Place, was much better; Eliza and Olivia are two women, each afflicted by a form of madness. In essence, they are the mirror image of each other: Eliza lives in a psych ward, trapped by her physical surroundings, whilst battling inner demons, while Olivia is a successful artist, feeling internal pressure to produce her sculptures. They’re linked by Olivia’s boyfriend, Gareth, who is treating Eliza – trying to lure her out through art.
And Gareth is the driving force of the ply – he constantly belittles Olivia’s art as insignificant compared to his work, whilst encouraging Eliza to produce more scribbly pieces which he deems of critical importance. And so we come to the duality of the piece – meaning in art, art in meaning, each part being portayed by similar-looking actresses (which I guess is the point, really). In fact, as Eliza drags herself back toward sanity, and Olivia descends into madness, I almost expected the two to trade place onstage at the end of the show – though that may have been a bit too overt, and hence would’ve left a bad taste in my mouth.
I really liked This Place – it was an engaging and thoughtful piece. Dead Jim, on the other hand, was anything but. It’s odd how much contrast there was between two plays by the same company on the same bill.