Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend
Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre
February 12 – 16
Stefanie Preissner’s one-woman play “Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend” is a difficult-to-define show, part monologue, part poetry (told in rhyming couplet), part stand-up comedy, part physical theatre. It is a mixture that has been well-received overseas, with the show receiving rave reviews in the UK. However, it is a mixture that borders on muddled, at the expense of appreciation of a fine performance.
Although its themes include contemporary issues like drug dependency (Solpadeine, known as Panadeine in Australia, is part caffeine, part paracetamol, part codeine) there is limited depth as protagonist and narrator Stephanie attempts to justify her painkiller habit as ‘sometimes medicine is the best medicine’. (She takes Solpadeine every morning just to start the day, to numb her emotions into an effervescent cocoon). In clichéd Generation X angst, touching on a sense of entitlement, she describes how her world is falling down around her and although further explanation reveals a humanised, sometimes touching story, it’s a confused message.
Perhaps it is because we, in Australia are so removed from the troubled economic times of Ireland, that her explanation appears so indulgent. Perhaps it is because the show so readily traverses the area between comedy and pathos, that we are left unsure of how to respond. I, for one, know that I have seen comic examinations of the Irish post boom resonate much more clearly when they don’t take themselves too seriously (for example, Colm O’regan’s “Dislike! A Facebook Guide to Crisis”).
As a performer, Preissner is energetic and entertaining; her impressions and accents are comic highlights, and her reminiscence of embarrassing incidents is endearing. Indeed her high-energy, physical performance, ‘interacting’ with the bean bag and punching bag that make up the scant set, effectively carry the audience through the beginnings of her story. Then things get gimmicky with its epic lyrical poem construction competing with the narrative rather than providing a complementing rhythm.
“Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend” is very much a festival show, branded by its likeable star. In general thematic terms it poses some interesting human questions about the reality of heartbreak and the doubt that exists behind our social media selves, however, while the production is earnest, it needs to overcome its post-modern confusion as to the type of show it wants to be.