Oceans All Boiling into Foot Odour

I jest.

For a moment last night, in my panic at finding myself in a warm theatre, with no decent means of escape, as I felt the combined pressures of a beer-bloated bladder, hot feet, a dizzy spleen, sleep deprivation (only diverted from crankiness by the afore-mentioned beer consumption) and the strange sense that I had stumbled upon a joke that I would never get and of which I might be the butt, for a moment, I say, I thought I might pass out.

It was made worse because, at about minute 65, I distinctly remembered the conversation I enjoyed before the bell with the sound guy (the very enjoyable David O’Rourke) who assured me there was an interval during which we could continue our surprise reunion. This in contradiction to the advice I received from someone who attended opening night. If this is just the first half, how long can this thing go on I thought. And is that the smell of my own feet?

Luckily there were quite a few unshod feet in evidence (there being a carpeted and pillow-bedecked space at the front of the packed house where I was ensconsed), not quite enough to eradicate my concerns about people smelling mine and actually take off my shoes (which I was dying to do, and to lie down on the pillow which was mostly occupied by a lovely lady to my right) and I don’t even have particularly smelly feet…

Luckily again, the aforementioned sound guy was right about the interval but wrong about the show, he doing sound for The Idea of North next door and me seeing Oceans All Boiling Into Sky, the reading of which in our back yard caused a minor kerfuffle ten days ago or so.

With all these things buffeting my normally contented soul, I sat on a cushion in the smoky darkness and attempted to penetrate the many mysteries of ‘Oceans’. The first five minutes made no sense. The pace is ‘machine gun’, many times the cast talk over one another and there is music, adding, initially, to the aural confusion. There was also a perceptable low frequency feedback ring on Hanna Cormack’s mic making her short early addition to proceedings that bit more unintelligible. For a while I feared the tech would get in the way of the play. Wasted energy. The rest of the evening was crystal and nicely balanced. Cormack shed a tear during her brief appearance. I don’t believe it was scripted.

But really the problem is mine. I’m bad enough at listening to, say, a poem, read at normal speed in good listening conditions. Normally I’ll be three lines behind by halfway and just give in to the melifluousness of the sounds (or boredom), a pleasant enough experience if you’re being read to by a beautiful young woman while naked in a bath on ‘e’. But I’m not really ‘getting it’.

I guess I’m just retarded in that way. Even with a preview like I had, I was lost at first, but magically, around minute ten, as if the radio had finally been nicely tuned, the multi-streamed avalanche of jibberish, gobbledegook and hornswaggle gelled into a meaningful discourse that I could follow. Or at least part thereof. It’s a road trip, a nightmarish, Kafkaesque journey through both Canberra and the abysmal labrynth of a teenager’s mind.

The character of Mack, played by a real life teenager, is the perfect vehicle for young Lloyd Allison-Young. Plastic faced and fluid in transition from almost hammy angst to suave candour and blithe unaffectedness, Allison-Young proved that barely anyone has to have any idea what’s going on and the whole room can still be amused. The rest of the cast are excellent, at least to my untutored eye, coping well with a very demanding script, the equivalent, methinks, of playing lead fiddle in a Tchaikovsky symphony.

Raoul Cramer is suitably authoritarian and megalomaniacal, his movember moustache aiding the visual effect admirably. Chris Lloyd, as I’ve previously uttered, gives good female newsreader and effortlessly traverses her multiple characters, and dear Virginia Savage evokes a range of emotions, from lust as pure as the driven snow, to sorrow sweet as mother’s milk.

Laced with local geographical icons, ‘Oceans’ was, for this born and bred Canberran, like viewing the familiar haunts of the past through a fractured looking glass, each landmark a metaphor for something dark or seamy or sad. Are the monsters on Black Mountain the cultural imperialism of the mainstream media? Is Lake Burley Griffin death. Does it matter? Can you enjoy a play like you might a ride on a roller coaster? All sensation and no comprehension? Can you marvellously enjoy a guitar solo without understanding each nuance, every flattened 6th?

Apparently you can, because I did and didn’t (get every nuance). The two blokes in the pisser agreed with each other they had no clue what was happening. Sometimes the best stuff takes closer examination. Perhaps I should go again. This time I’m going early, getting a good posi, and taking my shoes off.

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