Thursday, February 19, 2004

Hello Purvis. Hello Richard, how was your day? Purvis, it was moderately fucked by ten.

Anni reviews Philip Dean's Zigzag Street, adapted from the novel by Nick Earls.

I can't help but feel a tad like an animated Nick Earls voice over in one of Brisbane Marketing's advertisements about the city's vibrant hotspots when I speak about the utter brilliance that is the La Boite Theatre Company's performance of Zigzag Street.

Hearing about the Australian-wide tour of the show from the official Nick Earls website in early January, I was quick to snap up a ticket for the second preview performance on Wednesday the 18th of February at the new (and very impressive) Roundhouse Theatre Complex.

The last time that I had been in the vicinity of Kelvin Grove's new (QUT) Creative Industries Precinct was in late October (when I was thrown into the desperate throngs of (almost) late assignment delivery...a disastrous tale which shall probably keep for another time). At this time, the new facilities were underdeveloped and I couldn't help but think to myself, where do they keep the giant triceratops crane during smokos? Yes, the new 'Urban Village'was nothing more than a few bits of metal and rock. I was starting to worry about what the New Year was to bring to my university days.

However, I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw yesterday. The new precinct is a very large, aesthetically pleasing array of buildings, which only add to the Queensland University of Technology's upbeat image revamp in the last few years. To those who attend the Kelvin Grove campus, it also appears that there are now more car stop creating pileups on various grassy knolls!

Situated in the heart of the precinct is the Roundhouse Theatre, the new home of La Boite, one of Australia's oldest and continually operating theatre companies. To celebrate the company's relocation from now heritage listed box-like house on Sexton Street, La Boite has commenced a complete season of new plays by Queensland resident writers.

Zigzag Street is the story of twenty-eight year old Richard Derrington, who is currently single and living in the house that his grandparent's built on Zigzag Street, in the Brisbane suburb of Red Hill.

Richard is more single then he'd like to be. More single that he expected to be. Since Anna trashed him six months ago he's been trying to get his life together, despite the fact that chaos reigns supreme.

In between receiving bad but well-meaning advice from his friend Jeff, taking the toaster apart to find out exactly what is giving the toast a slightly odd taste, and explaining his girlfriend's absence to the local Thai takeaway store, Richard's life takes a number of twists and turns as he ambles back on track.

Zigzag Street is a story about rumination, chaos, poor judgment, interpersonal clumsiness and Richard's discovery that hope isn't such an overly-optimistic emotion after all.

Dean's adaptation is impressive, as the plot remains true to Earl's critically acclaimed novel. Little of the original narrative is altered, with a clever use of combining events into character tete-a-tete and witty monologues by the loveable protagonist Richard, who is portrayed superbly by La Boite newcomer Mark Conaghan. Conaghan's performance starts as a slow and pitiful lament to single life, yet he manages to capture the audience's imaginations and heartstrings well before the second act. I will no doubt picture Mark Conaghan's Richard the next time that I am reading the novel.

Another performance of note would have to be the efforts of Yalin Ozucelik (who also appeared in Dean's adaptation of Earl's After January), who plays Jeff, Richard's mate and fellow gossiper over coffee. Ozucelik also plays Greg, the red-headed eccentric animal veterinarian who was loved by Richard's deceased grandmother (she named her temperamental cat after him). Ozucelik and Conaghan bounce off each other like a couple of mates who have known each other since they were knee high to a grasshopper.

Performances by Melissa McMahon (Rachel) and Cara McIlveen (Deb/Girl/Renee) are also impressive. McMahon hits the nail on the head for the characterisation of Rachel, a twenty-five year old artist who believes that the search for the perfect bagel never ends. McIlveen plays each character well and slips into each effortlessly with little more than a costume change. Caroline Dunphy (Hillary/Sal) could take a few notes whilst watching her co-star (McIlveen) work her magic.

Director Jean-Marc Russ delivers the goods with Zigzag Street and Bill Haycock (designer), David Walters (lighting designer) and Owen Jolly (sound designer) forcefully grab the audience and make them forget that they are watching actors on a flat floor surrounded by boxes and Tim Tam wrappers. I was especially impressed by the play's opening sequence, which I shall not spoil, because I think that everyone should see it for themselves.

Five stars out of five stars.

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