[2015159] Spring Alibi

[2015159] Spring Alibi

Northern Sabbatical Productions @ Bakehouse Theatre – Studio

1:00pm, Sat 14 Mar 2015

I always feel a little sorry for international acts that have most of their season in the back end of the Fringe; they’ve (likely) invested a lot of their money into dragging themselves over to little ol’ Adelaide with the expectation that Fringe audiences are hungry for their quirky out-of-town performances, and willing to give anything a fair shake.

Unfortunately, my experience over the years is that Adelaide is absolutely not like that. The last weekend of the Fringe is usually dead, with locals burnt out but the opportunities on offer, and few shows – other than the Big Names and/or the Garden – garnering audiences of any substantial size.

And so it was that Spring Alibi only had a quiet dozen-or-so in for a warm Saturday matinée; luckily, that’s enough to make the Studio feel non-empty. Scanning the programme whilst waiting for entry piqued my interest no end: there’s an amusing Glossary of Canadian Terms on the back page that playfully pokes fun at Canadian stereotypes (and wears the writer’s musical leanings on its sleeve).

The stage is made up like a cheap motel room: bed stage centre, stool and bar fridge on one side, chair and dresser on the other. Mac and Marlene share the stage, but are rarely in the same scene; both have found themselves in northern Canada in the springtime, but for wildly different reasons. Marlene – bubbly and boisterous, but also a little cautious – has escaped a bad relationship, and is staying in a hotel for a bit of a breather; Mac is a nice-but-shy guy – beer drinking, blue collar – who headed north for the money, and is working construction on the building across from Marlene’s hotel. In a potentially dubious happenstance, he spies her luxuriating in her room one day, and… well, one thing leads to another, and they finally meet in real life. Awkward meeting, awkward date, emotional turmoil, release.

Most of the narrative was alternately delivered by each character to an invisible friend at the other end of a phone line; there’s no real direct contact between Mac and Marlene until the very end of the play. This works well, though it does get a little tiresome towards the end: lopping a couple of scenes would have made the play a touch more succinct without losing much narrative drive. And, curiously, there’s a frankness about masturbation in these phone calls that, whilst it’s charming and funny to hear as an audience member, seems unrealistic… both in content and frequency. And for characters that are happy to discuss their masturbation and porn habits with friends on the phone, they both appear to have curious hang-ups.

As an unconventional courtship – and I’m no stranger to those – Spring Alibi is ludicrous in the extreme… and, thus, enjoyable. Sue Huff and Andy Northrup are utterly charming as Marlene and Mac, and Kevin Tokarsky’s see-sawing direction keeps interest levels high throughout. Spring Alibi was certainly a fun piece of theatre that deserved a bigger audience… but it’s hard to overcome Fringe burnout with quirky wank-fuelled rom-com.

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