peteg's blog - noise - theatre - 2014 09 20 Ecstasy

Cole Theatre: Ecstasy at A Red Orchid Theatre.

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As Irvine Welsh lives here now, one might reasonably have expected this to be a take on his shorts from a long time ago, but no: this is Mike Leigh's script from circa 1979, and A Red Orchid Theatre would not be out of place on Sydney's lower north shore circa that time. I suspect it may take the surrounding locality of Old Town until 2020 to discover Thai. I had a beer across the road beforehand at an Italian restaurant, where I sat at the bar and drank my Guinness with almost no help from the barstaff. For $8.50 including tip I expected at least a little interest. This stretch of Wells is for the showpony set.

Be that as it may, I was here for the theatre, having stumped up the full price of $25 to see some game folk have a crack at art. I think the review at the Reader was unduly snarky. The cast is uniformly excellent, with great accent work. Sure, the bloke (Roy, played by Joel Reitsma) finishing up with Jean (Lauren Pizzi) is not Thewlis, but things open with them naked in an authentic kind of way. No danger in that, not never. I particularly liked Michaela Petro's Dawn, laughing like a drain and trying to be a mate, who is wisely given a lot of room by Boyd Harris (playing Mick, her husband with the softest Irish lilt) and Layne Manzer, who makes Len, the pivot of the second half, a timid Elvis Costello type. Skyler Schrempp is very briefly Val. Perhaps they've tuned things over the intervening weeks, or Maura Kidwell's Jean may have been something else entirely.

The set is an impressively-detailed London bedsit, which made me wonder if they still have electricity and gas meters. Someone put a drinking bird on the bedside table, soon cluttered with dead Newcastle Brown Ales and spirit bottles. The noses wrinkled at vodka, the G&T's, certainly mark it anachronistic. Much smoking is evoked, though the cast reduce it to bum-puffing so they can get through the night/run. (Seems they had some more realistic tech earlier in the run.) The plot follows from the characters: a couple of nights in working-class London, amongst the common people who came from elsewhere. It was a fun, solid effort and I'm keen to see what they all get up to next. Director Shade Murray apparently did a ripper Abigail's Party in 2010.