Review by Anne-Marie Peard on Sunday 2 October, please see it in it’s original context here.
As the fortyfivedownstairs program continues to bring us companies who know how important it is to tell our stories and are willing to take the kind of risks that create amazing theatre, Scott Gooding’s happy ending for Vicious Fish’s Belbel Project is a satisfying hour of Fourplay.
A long-term couple wanting change have a remarkably cool new bed. With crisp purple sheets and geek-perfect proportions, it’s ready to break in – but they don’t want to play with destiny, so he invites a hot young man and she invites a hot young woman…
Now, before anyone gets excited about watching bored middle-class swingers, know that Fourplay’s far more interesting and that the only writer resorting to cheap puns is me.
Catalan-Spanish playwright Sergei Belbel wrote his first plays in the 80s and has been Artistic Director of The National Theatre of Catalonia since 2005. Vicious Fish is the champion of his work in Australia, having presented four of his translated works.
Form and structure are as much a part of Belbel’s storytelling as character and plot. Fourplay’s time line alternates and scenes repeat from different perspectives with new information. This forces the audience to actively play in the onstage games and to continually re-think what they believe is happening. There’s no passive watching with Belbel.
And while I love how this makes us really engage with the text, the brilliance of the Jenga-winning structure can create distance from the stories of the characters (Gooding, Michael Argus, Kaitlyn Clare, Liza Dennis) and distract from the humour that pumps the heart of the work.
With four people wanting to use the bed for more than a nanna nap, there’s potential for farce, but Belbel is far darker and tempers their play time is with uncomfortable laughs that feel really good once you get used to them and accept just how reactionary tits can be.
I’ve recently seen a lot of very funny shows where audiences seem afraid to laugh in case it isn’t meant to be funny. If you think it’s funny, the people creating it probably do as well; so, please have a glass of wine if it helps and enjoy Fourplay.