Di Smith @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch
7:30pm, Mon 22 Feb 2010
Waaaaay back in 2000, it seemed like there was a real glut of one-woman-multiple-character shows – The Entire Contents of the Refrigerator being the one that immediately springs to mind – but I don’t recall there being much activity in that somewhat specific genre in the last few years. Sarah Quinn has, of course, excelled in one such show (and this year’s A Captive Audience looks, thankfully, like more of the same), but others have been hard to come by.
Or maybe they’re just not reaching out from The Guide, appealing to me.
Regardless, I’m back in The Arch for the third time today to see Di Smith’s display of three characters whose only common trait appears to be loneliness. The first woman, Irene, is a carny spruiker with an autistic son, constantly battling pre-conceived notions on multiple fronts: as an itinerant carny, she’s viewed suspiciously, and her son is always the first to be blamed when something goes wrong (such as the missing girl that drives most of Irene’s tale). You get the feeling that, at story’s end, Irene is almost relieved at the outcome… but her isolation, her lack of emotional support, just barely starts cracking her hardened façade.
Alison, on the other hand, seems desperate and dateless. Venturing into the duplicitous world of online dating, she fantasises about the potential for romance with her new beau – only to have her dreams shattered by a Cleveland steamer. Tragic for Alison, but bloody funny for me.
The last character, Maureen, was the one that hit home for me. Suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s (at age 51), Maureen knows she’s entering a murky twilight, with her husband doing all he can to make her life as fulfilling as possible. But she can sense that she is, essentially, leaving him behind – she’s grateful, of course, but cognisant that her condition is ruining his life. It’s certainly the best-written of the three pieces, and I sense perceptive parallels with my own parents.
Peeled lingers in my memory in some sort of strange limbo; on the one hand, all the characters are unique in their own way, with Maureen standing out the most. And Smith’s delivery is certainly convincing, both in dialogue and song (each character belts out a tune as a signature flourish). But the first two pieces didn’t really engage me at all – leaving me quite firmly on the outside looking in – and the third was a little uncomfortable, given the close-to-home nature of the characters. And so Peeled falls into that category where I’m glad I saw it, but would hardly recommend it to anyone; a shame, really, because I love this format when everything goes right.