[2009015] Autobahn

Autobahn [FringeTIX]

junglebean @ Garage Bar

7:30pm, Wed 25 Feb 2009

A series of six short one-act plays by Neil LaBute, Autobahn confines each piece to the inside of a car, restricting the movements and concentrating on the dialogue shared between each pair of characters.

This first piece, “Funny,” bodes well; Renee Gentle’s chatty rehab survivor being driven home by her mute Mum generates a few solid giggles. “Long Division,” however, doesn’t come off quite as well – Tim Overton’s manic delivery feels an awful lot like over-acting to me, and I’d hate to have been in the car with him driving… he barely had his eyes on the road during their quest to reclaim his mostly-silent companion’s N64 from his ex. “Road Trip” is a touch uncomfortable, the undercurrent of paedophilia being telegraphed early on in the piece; it mopes and broods for awhile, before a thoroughly creepy climax… a wonderfully measured performance by John Doherty.

After a short interval, we return with the highlight of the night for me: “Bench Seat” is a lyrical tug-of-war between a dating couple parked at a popular lover’s lookout. She is utterly bipolar: flitting between fear of the breakup, and the desire to ram Her tongue down His throat. He, of course, has His heart set on the breakup; but, after She reveals Her obsessive side (by stalking the last guy who dumped Her), He holds back… as the lights dip, the look of confined horror on His face as She snuggled into His chest was priceless. Renee Gentle excels again, and Tim Overton more than makes up for his earlier transgressions.

“Merge” was, likewise, an entertaining bit of work, watching a man strain to contain his outrage and incredulity as his partner – ever-so-slowly – reveals her group-sex transgressions incurred whilst away on travel. But the glacial speed of revelation works against it in this case; I’m already eying my watch, mindful of making my next show. And the final piece, the eponymous Autobahn, was like pulling teeth; every word, every stanza, every rant about the couple’s wayward foster child, was enraging me, because (a) this show was running well over time, and (2) I was arsed if I was missing Tarnished.

junglebean, a collective formed to put this piece on, quite obviously focussed on the car motif – but that didn’t necessarily work that well. Having a mechanic essentially propel proceedings (including the rather ineffectual interval announcement) was a bit of a stretch, but the video screen behind the stage – whilst a good idea in theory – was completely wrong; for one thing, all the footage used to impart motion in proceedings went the wrong way – the “car” onstage was coming towards the audience, so the screen should have been moving away! And, given the distinctly American feel of every play, to have quite identifiable Adelaide streets used in these shots was a little disconcerting, and felt lazy (though, it must be said, the lookout used for “Bench Seat” set the mood perfectly). None of that seemed to matter, though – the packed crowd (friends? family? ex-AC Arts classmates?) loved it, and glared at me as I scooted out (whilst clapping, I might add – I’m no respectless heathen) through the final bow. And, despite the fact that it ran about 40 minutes long (something that really pisses me off), I have to admit that I liked a lot of what Autobahn had to offer.

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