Samson (La Boite Theatre and Belvoir St Theatre)
La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre
April 17 – May 2
Samson is dead. As an audience we know this early in the namesake show. He broke his neck while doing a rope trick over a too-shallow creek. He is mourned by his sometimes girlfriend Beth, who has constructed a shrine to his memory, Sid (who is in love with Beth) and the angsty protagonist of sorts, Essie.
As far as plot goes, that’s about it. There is no real narrative, just a serious of encounters between the group of teens and town newcomer Rabbit. However, there is a reality to its country town depiction of bored adolescent life drinking goon, smoking, playing never have I ever and being melodramatic. “I’m not afraid of being alone,” Essie yells at Beth, “I’m afraid of being stuck here!”
Indeed, there are many well-written moments of insight within the play’s dialogue, however, they are sometimes overshadowed by the essential anger of its piercing screams and tirades of profanity which steal away from their impact. Playwright Julia-Rose Lewis should be commended for her decision to include a Christian character within the group, however, other characters are not quite as well-rounded. And the equally provocative comments from all of the characters may represent an attempt at authenticity, but in doing so, leaves limited room for the realisation of individual identity.
Drawcard Ashleigh Cummings (“Puberty Blues”) does a decent job as Essie; her journey is painful but revealing. However it is Benjamin Creek, as the energetic Rabbit, who humanises his character and engenders the most likability due to the calibre of his performance.
This production is as enigmatic as its elusive storyline. The setting is simply and effectively denoted with a curved stage evoking the creek and its bed upon which Samson’s makeshift memorial is erected, serving as a powerful reminder that theatre is more magnifying glass than mirror. Running at an economical 75 minutes, “Samson” is equally confronting and comforting in its examination of universal themes as it speaks to the shared nature of death, yet the individual experience of grieving. Lewis definitely has something to say in this work. It might not be entirely new or immediately engaging, but the result is entertaining enough regardless.