‘The Great Lie of the Western World’ is the latest offering from collective Cathode Ray Tube currently showing at the Tap Gallery.
Cathode Ray Tube is the love child of Alistair Powning, Jessica Donoghue and Michael Booth and they specialise in writing, producing and acting in their own work. This is the second production of theirs I’ve seen and there is an improvement in writing in this play- more connected relationships, better use of the natural ‘voice’ of the male characters and at times, some witty dialogue.
I am appreciative of the drive and creativity of this collective and I think over time, as they hone their craft, they will write much more sophisticated and natural works that perfectly capture not only their skill set and agenda but also rely on less contrived dilemmas and thin twists. It will stop trying to be clever and it will just be.
I guess this comment stems from the tenuous premise of the narrative- a vigilante angel (O’Donoghue) and Jesus figure (Booth) gate crash the house of Simon (Powning) and his girlfriend Fiona (Kate Skinner), wander around the streets of Marrickville, force him to confess his gambling addiction, get Fiona to love herself and reconnect the lovers before heading off on their next Highway to Heaven style mission. They didn’t quite pull off the story- at times it felt more cheesy than poignant, especially when Jesus-figure, Emerson (Michael Booth) is trying to inspire confidence in the other characters and get them to confess their ‘sins’. However, when the boys were bantering, it felt far more truthful. And the acting of Jessica Donohue and Kate Skinner were especially strong.
This is a talented ensemble but it needs to be less indulgent and more controlled. I know Cathode Ray Tube fight using a director but I don’t think they’d necessarily compromise their spontaneity by using one, especially when they are so heavily involved in every step of the process. Don’t dismiss what an experienced outside eye could bring to your work. I have no doubt the right director could help refine the delivery of dialogue, focus issues, timing lapses, tighten the interaction between characters and perhaps even help in the editing of the script through the workshopping and rehearsal process.
Having said all of that, I will admit I am probably ten years too old to really appreciate this play. ‘The Great Lie of the Western World’ seems to be aimed at the mid 20’s to the mid 30’s demographic. And clearly being one of the few sober people in the audience at the time didn’t help any. As much as I was entertained/annoyed by the pantomime interaction of the audience, “he’s coming for you- ooh here he comes..” or the gamut of emotional sounds in response to lines or action or even the conversations in the second row about breaking up with your hairdresser were a fascinating insight into the life that I must have missed 15 years ago, it was clear this play was not really going to inspire the response in me that it did for others in the audience.
Honestly, if you’re under 35, you’ll probably enjoy the relaxed nature of the play and the attempted cleverness will delight you in many ways. Over 35’s, this one is probably not for you.
It’s got potential, it’s got legs but it is wonky on its feet.