[2015009] King in Exile

[2015009] King in Exile

Nice Productions @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

7:30pm, Thu 12 Feb 2015

I’m always amazed by the artists who decide to throw their hat into the ring and perform at the Adelaide Fringe, especially those who don’t do comedy; I’ve often felt that staging a theatre piece must be an incredibly ambitious undertaking, requiring a level of blind optimism that the crowds will come to cover your costs. Sure, some venues (such as Holden Street) do tend to get a more theatre-savvy audience, but there’s something to be said for the cahones of those who – with very little backing – decide to book a long run for their show.

The respect (or concession to insanity) goes up a notch when you throw the word “abstract” into the mix.

It all starts so plainly for this Victorian company: King comes from another galaxy and attempts to settle in Australia. He’s a fish out of water, but attempts to use his intellect to determine the cultural patterns that seem to want to crush the spirit out of society. There’s also King’s Antagonist, the struggling playwright trying to make sense of his own meta-play, a fierce S&M couple, three witches… and a lot of nods to Shakespeare, with a series of contemporary themes (racism & immigration, sexuality, tall-poppy syndrome).

Sounds like a decent potpourri for an abstract play, right?

Unfortunately, the elements seemed to fight each other, resulting in a real mess of a production. Whilst the conflict between King and Antagonist had some decent verbal exchanges, and the Playwright’s inner demons provoked compassionate interest, interstitial scenes were far less compelling… and even downright infuriating. Any momentum built by other characters was dispelled the instant the needlessly shrill witches came onstage… and the over-the-top relationship of the ridiculously submissive Rob & overly domineering Jacqueline seemed completely out of place.

To be fair, the denouement of this muddle seemed really interesting… but then it just kept going and going, butchering any positivity it brought with it. The small opening-night audience – myself included – seemed to be more bemused than entertained – their applause had died out before the cast had even left the stage.

And, after I’d left the theatre and had a chance to sit down and reflect, all I could do is muse that this company had another week in this large space.

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