Jally Productions @ The Bakehouse Theatre (Studio)
5:00pm, Mon 9 Mar 2009
It’s been years since I’ve been to a show in The Studio at The Bakehouse; it’s a tiny, intimate space, and it’s at about half capacity today. The raised seats look pretty packed, so I sit closer to the front of the stage; I park my arse, then check the stage – there’s one chap sitting at a table onstage, and I just happened to sit in the chair that he was morosely staring at.
Staring, without blinking.
Staring. At me.
No, through me.
Unflinching. Bloody unnerving it was, and it had me considering a seat shift. But before I could move, the (previously hidden) Narrator sprang from behind his podium onstage and leapt into his explanation of Norman, and his bored gaze.
Poor snivelly Norman, continually harassed by his wife, goes to the doctor for a trivial complaint and is told he has only a short time left on this earth. This news, understandably, shifts his perspective somewhat, and he decides to correct in his remaining time all those mistakes he left. He stands up to his wife; he reacts to his bane in The Brute, and becomes the man he always wanted to be – but never was. Of course, there’s a tiny twist in the tale that was telegraphed to pretty much anyone who’s seen any movies ever, but that’s okay.
Mediocrity was a lot of fun; it was loud and abrupt, the performance of the Narrator (Luke Lanham) was beautifully bombastic and perfectly pitched, with Frank Wilkie’s Norman being appropriately hen-pecked and cowering. The Brute (Michael Morgan) was likewise ace, with the only letdown being Norman’s wife – fair enough, really, since she was supposed to be an overbearing bitch – but Alli Pope more than made up for it as The Doctor.
And here’s the best bit: Mediocrity was blissfully brief – in a good way. Despite the few scenes that overstayed their welcome (the initial visit to the doctor’s office seemed far too long-winded), this skinny forty minute production felt surprisingly solid. That seems to be a ballsy move these days – the status quo seeming to insist on an hour – but it makes the piece that much more memorable to me. Kudos, Jally; hope to see you Fringing again soon.