SNUG & VENT
PUMP Theatre @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch
2:00pm, Sat 8 Mar 2014
Theatre section of the Fringe Guide? Overtly in support of White Ribbon? Intriguing line buried in the middle of the précis? Extremely short run? Matinée?
SNUG & VENT checked all those boxes and drew me, like a moth to a flame, out to Holden Street on a Saturday afternoon. But there’s barely a handful of other people in the audience, and even in the relatively tight confines of The Arch the gaps feel enormous.
SNUG is the first play of the pair on offer, and it explores the idea of feeling “safe” through seven short scenes featuring three featureless characters. By approaching the topics in an abstract way, freed from the expectations that gender could place on the characters, SNUG is a thoughtful (though too earnestly straightforward to be thought-provoking) piece whose message is unavoidable, yet not forced upon the audience.
VENT, on the other hand, forgoes SNUG‘s abstraction in favour of a more literal staging of an abusive relationship: Rosa and Dan’s relationship is disintegrating as their uni-student daughter struggles to hold things together. Dan’s inability to deal with pressures external to the family is clearly the root cause, and there’s uncomfortable scenes as he lashes out and threatens the two women. Resolution is… well, it’s not a feel-good ending.
But suddenly – with only about half of the expected hour duration elapsed – the performances were done. The house lights came up, and one of the production crew – Production Manager Karen Van Spall, perhaps? – addressed the audience; she asked us to suggest alternative actions that the characters could have taken at any point in the play. Met with a wall of silence (I struggled to come up with something valid, but was also taken aback by the requested interaction in such a loaded atmosphere), she threw a few suggestions out; the actors performed the changes, taking them through to their conclusions.
And that’s an interesting idea… but it comes across feeling quite forced, and a little bit unrealistic. And – worse, in terms of “entertainment” – it made me feel uncomfortable as an audience member… and that’s the unfortunate memory that lingers.
It feels awful to say that, especially in conjunction with a show that’s got it heart in absolutely the right place. And let’s be quite clear: both short plays are earnest in their message… it’s just that the audience interaction felt forced and unnecessary. In a school environment, it may work a treat; in a Saturday matinée session, not so much.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 8, 2014