[2014026] The Sheds

[2014026] The Sheds

James Cunningham (Writer & Director) @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage

7:30pm, Tue 18 Feb 2014

The Fringe Guide paints an intriguing picture: it promises an exploration of masculinity and mateship in the aftermath of an AFL player publicly announcing his homosexuality. And a near sell-out crowd assembled at The Bakehouse this evening to see The Sheds… but it’s hard to imagine that many left this performance satisfied.

Prior to the events of the play, star footballer Darren announces – in a press conference – that he’s gay; his good friend Liam, who acts as the play’s narrator, reflects the support of the rest of the team and club. But one of Darren’s friends from his past, the lively (and seemingly meth-addicted) Jimmy, isn’t quite as supportive: he saw Darren as a mentor, and cannot reconcile his sexuality. As their team’s fortunes fluctuate, and Darren drifts out of form and Jimmy becomes the linchpin of the team, Jimmy’s overt aggression and lack of willingness to discuss his discomfort with Darren’s presence leads to altercations…

This all sounds great, right? Throw in some (read: a lot) of full-frontal nudity in the showers (confronting when you’re in the front row!), some physically convincing naked fight scenes that resulted in buff wrestling, and you’ve got potential for some highly-charged theatre, right? Right?

But this production is completely hamstrung by the incredibly uneven performances of its cast. Patrick Chirico, playing the central role of Darren, mumbled most of his lines in such a way that even I – sitting in the front row – struggled to make sense of him; a flat tone (except when enraged, which also aided intelligibility) didn’t help. Andii Mulders, on the other hand, was perfectly clear with his diction… but every second word was “fuck”. That almost worked given the blinkered and intentionally bogan-ic nature of his character, but it still felt forced.

But perhaps the most embarrassing act I’ve seen in a theatre in nearly a decade was performed by Ludwik Exposto. As Liam, the narrator, he would often come onstage to deliver a short scene-setting speech prior to the arrival of the other characters; he was mostly audible, though he had a habit of rolling off the end of his lines towards the end of each sentence, making it really hard to hear. But, at the start of his second such soliloquy, he delivered perhaps fifteen seconds of material whilst walking across the stage before he realised he was repeating the first soliloquy… and, when he realised what he’d done, he faced the audience and said “But I’m repeating myself, aren’t I? Let’s rewind that bit…” and proceeded to walk backwards off the stage from whence he came, and started the scene from scratch.

Now, I don’t know much about handling mistakes in theatre. I’ve no idea what I would do in a similar situation. I’ve no idea what anyone would do in that situation.

But I’m pretty sure that pretty much anything would’ve been better than what Exposto did.

Still, at least it added a semblance of humour into proceedings; something that those in attendance could talk about in shared experiences after-the-fact (I wound up talking to a couple of guys who’d been at the same performance some time later, and it triggered a fantastic conversation). It’s terrible to admit that such an unfortunate event should remain the principle memory from this performance… but it’s the truth, because no other element of The Sheds was able to provide any semblance of quality.

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