Terminus (Underground Productions)
Schonell Cinema and Live Theatre
March 3 – 12
Mark O’Rowe’s “Terminus” is the account of one long, dark Dublin night of violence. It is a storytelling feat, told entirely in often-absurd verse by its three characters, known only as A, B and C (Elise O’Meara, Olivia Hall-Smith and Henry Bretz) each narrating their section of the story without addition of much staging in support. The result is heightened awareness and thus audience appreciation of the script’s essential eloquence as it moves from realistic, grounded story to become a heightened supernatural, metaphysical and fantastical adventure.
The first night-venturer’s recount is a past-teacher’s attempt to rescue a previous pupil from a brutal back-street abortion. In the second, that woman’s estranged daughter falls from a crane, at the terminus of life and death. While the third tells of a shy bachelor-by-day who busies his nights butchering his sexual conquests and then some, having sold his soul to the devil. Each story is essentially delivered within cycles of monologues, overlapped by a line or two in transition, but without any character interaction.
Each performer does a good job with their section of the grisly subject matter. O’Meara, in particular evokes many comic moments from within her piece, especially in mimicry of characters as part of her initial anecdotal style or recoutn. It is Bretz who delivers the most noteworthy performance, however, capturing the sneering strangeness of his serial killer character in viscerally grim description of violence with Tarantino type aestheticisation.
Alliteration, assonance and haunting imagery paint evocative visions but unfortunately, the moments of lyrical beauty often become lost in the works’ multitudinous sea of words, showing how even eloquence can use an edit. And without anything to hold the audience’s visual interest, the near two-hour experience becomes almost as arduous for the audience as it is demanding for the actors on stage.
With its unsettling themes, expletive-filled dialogue and original approach to storytelling, “Terminus” is a risky choice …. perfect for student theatre …. on paper at least. In reality, however, even its humour cannot make it ultimately satisfying in terms of narrative, meaning and message, beyond a shock value that wears tediously thin long before its conclusion. And the decision to sit the text’s embedded cultural references of stout and Walnut Whips alongside mention of Longanlea and BWS for its Queensland premiere, only makes for a confused identity and lapses in momentum.