Low Level Panic [FringeTIX]
Half A Star Theatre @ Arcade Lane – Regent Two
2:00pm, Sun 20 Feb 2011
I read the précis in the Guide – that sounds interesting, I think. I notice it’s got a Sunday matinee early in the Fringe – easy peasy, I think. Ticket booked. Various promotional material is seen and acquired.
But it’s only as I’m walking to the venue, very tired and dreary on an otherwise sunny day, that I actually look at the posters adorning the walls as I approach Arcade Lane. And, as I read “Clare McIntyre’s Low Level Panic“, something about the playwright’s name triggers a memory… hang on, I reckon I’ve seen this before.
Out comes my phone, and off to this blog I go. A simple search reveals that yes, I have seen a production of Low Level Panic before (in 2006) and, as I read my previous musings, the memories of the show came flooding back (and that, after all, is the purpose of this blog). And they weren’t really kind.
I try to banish the recollections from my mind; I try to walk into every show hoping that it’s going to be Life-Changing. So the handful of us Sunday arvo punters enter the old Regent Two cinema and take in the set; it’s an elaborate, if messy, recreation of a spacious bathroom. Jo lolls about in the bath while Mary flicks through the pages of a porn magazine in disgust, musing awkwardly about the objectification of women; and so the feminist tone of the piece is set. The girls fuss about, preparing for a party; Kate Englefield’s Mary looks absolutely stunning in her dress (ooh look at me, focussing on the appearance – miss the point, much?), though it’s utterly understandable why her character wasn’t so into it.
But I’ve seen this play before. The rape scene that acts as the trigger for Mary’s angst somehow doesn’t seem as shocking now; Jo’s masturbation fantasies (accompanied by some video projection) don’t seem as scandalous. And the final act, the post-party reflection, sputters along to the anticlimactic conclusion.
Alicia Case’s Celia is primarily used as a comic foil to the weightier musings of the other two, and – somewhat disconcertingly, given the focus of Low Level Panic – seems to have the “ideal” life… even if she is left wanting for a bath. Case, however, felt the least assured of the three actresses, with wavering voice control and a perfunctory presence.
But the biggest problem with this production is the venue – Regent Two seems much more echoey than Regent One, and dialogue rattles around the broken walls and becomes hard to discern. Maybe a larger crowd might have deadened the space a bit more – even then, Maryann Boettcher’s lines from the bathtub would still have struggled to make it to the crowd (though her performance was, by far, the most accomplished).
So, once again, I’ve seen a production of Low Level Panic that has left me feeling unfulfilled. I’m in do doubt, now, that it’s the script that is lacking – the awkward dialogue and unfamiliar situations that the characters are faced with don’t really resonate with me at all. Yes, there’s that pivotal moment in the middle of the play, but the return to banality just makes it feel… well, less significant than it actually is.
Or maybe that’s the point – that these horrific moments are followed by an uncomfortable expectation of normality.