Appalling Behaviour (Wax Lyrical Productions)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Turbine Studio
February 10 – 13
An unnamed homeless man (Tom Markiewicz) appears from amongst a makeshift rubble of rubbish. Wearing a strappy back dress and with a face smeared with red lipstick, he is unapologetically flawed, appearing as quite the tragic sight. It is an introductory image entirely befitting the story of life on the edges of society, which he will chronical over the following 55 minutes.
Wax Lyrical Production’s new adaptation of Stephen House’s “Appalling Behaviour”, told as complex monologue, is dark, gritty and enticing as the show’s anti-hero shares of how declining mental health and various addictions lead him on a downward spiral of powerlessness and vulnerability. Things start slowly and initially it is difficult to give over to complete captivation of his story, but the honestly of his delivery and appeal of the dialogue’s eloquence, combined with some latter comic moments, court the audience’s attention. And despite its often uncomfortable themes, this night with a homeless queen in the sleazy Parisian underworld also contains some lovely messages about humanity and the need for compassion as the sadness from within this beautiful city is shared.
Staging is appropriately simple, both in consideration of the intimacy of the Powerhouse’s Turbine Studio and for the solitary nature of its story. Lighting effectively takes audiences through transitions from the shadows of sorrow to the strobe of a Parisian nightclub. And the addition of touching live music from Silvan Rus adds a valuable layer to a work which is ultimately both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Its realism (the work was based on the playwright’s own experiences of living on the streets of Paris) also adds to the appeal of the man’s stories of a woeful world on the streets alongside his hustler ‘friend’ Romano and the troubled Caroline, his perceived ‘Princess of Paris’. Markiewicz is a dynamic presence from the moment he begins the story, embracing the formidable task of an almost-hour-long monologue of precise, image-evoking language and concentrated emotional extremes. Not only does his performance promote the identifiable human values of humanity and goodness within the character, but it gives audiences much to ponder about the experience of those on the fringes of society beyond the banks of the Seine.