Queen Alexander House
May 11 – 21
Coorparoo’s Queen Alexandra House is a beautiful heritage building that certainly befits the Anywhere Theatre Festival aim to bring performances from a traditional theatre space into some of the city’s perhaps previously undiscovered nooks and crannies. And in the case of “The Flood”, it suits the play’s setting too, so that, thanks to some inventive staging, it is easy to image the space as a Yeronga Queenslander, filled with brown river sludge.
It is January 2011 and the weather in Brisbane ‘is about to skitz’, but not everyone knows of the misfortune that is on the way. When Sandra (Briellen Juracic) and her boyfriend Damo (Bernard Mina) return from an overseas trip to the remnants of their housemates’ holiday-season antics, Sandra is more focussed on unleashing her over-the-top temper on fellow twenty-somethings Glenn (Cliff Ellis) and Karl (Jack T Murphy) than reflecting on why all the businesses in the area may be closed. There are obviously strains in the group dynamic, but for now, Sandra (and more reluctantly) Damo must persevere with the situation as the price of seeing themselves get in to the market with the purchase of the property due to suburb’s growth potential.
The narrative soon shifts from this tension when the next morning they awake to once in a hundred year flood event in their riverside residence’s living room. Yet, reactions are not as may be as expected as they remain in their flood surrounds without much think or escape or discussion of insurance. Indeed, nothing is consistent in this work of wasted opportunities. As a comedy it has some witty lines, but they are all but lost amongst an overwritten script that tells rather than shows, and although the nature of the narrative brings much dramatic potential, this is left unrealised by a weak ending.
There is a lot going on in “The Flood”, too much in fact, meaning that there is a holistic lack of identity. At times, it seems more like a tour through a tick-a-box list of theatrical techniques, with physical humour sitting uncomfortably aside introspective monologues, meta-theatre mentions, fleeting indigenous themes and the occasional, unnecessary inclusion of a voice-over share of context and stage direction detail.
Amongst some self-conscious acting, Ellis is excellent as the shallow corporate lawyer Glenn, searching for his place in life. And Murphy makes Carl’s reaction to the salt water crocodile that assumes residence on their kitchen bench, a memorable comic moment (and props to whichever crew member it is that gets to don the onesie croc suit).
The show’s confused muddle of realism and exaggerated absurdity may be interesting in intent, but unfortunately is not entirely successful in execution. With more judicious editing and a more singular focus, it could be a more rewarding audience experience as either a quality Brisbane story (minus the lapses in logic) or as a light-hearted take of shared house dynamics, but not both.
Photos c/o – Geoff Lawrence of Creative Futures Photography