Pigman's Lament. Written and performed by Raoul Craemer. Directed by Paolo Castro. Street Two, The Street Theatre. Until July 3. thestreet.org.au or 6247 1223.
By definition, the avant-garde is experimental, unorthodox and innovative. Actor Raoul Craemer's solo performance, Pigman's Lament, is according to the criteria, intrinsically avant-garde. With director Paolo Castro, Craemer explores a puzzling and perplexing world of contradictions, combining the gentle spirit of Indian poet-weaver, Kabir, and the soothing lullaby of Brahms with the fearsome intimidation of a German grandfather. While preparing for the opening night of a play, Craemer experiences a visitation by the spectre of his wartime uniformed grandfather, raised from the dead to humiliate and prevent his grandson from revealing family secrets.
Craemer is torn between two worlds and two very different cultures. On the one hand, he inhabits the world of his Indian relations. On the other, there is the conflicting nature of a past shrouded in secrecy and suspicion. Craemer is compelled to confront and struggle with the conflicting dilemmas of his two worlds in a personal battle to triumph over unassailable facts that can define our human condition, while denying the true essence of our being.
Pigman's Lament is an intriguing investigation of an individual's search for the essential, elusive answer to "who am I?". Craemer, a stay-at-home dad of German and Indian parentage, lives in a modern-day Canberra apartment with his daughters. It is an ordered existence, unexpectedly disturbed by the apparition of a long-dead German grandfather with possible ties to the Nazi regime.
More than three years in the making, Pigman's Lament has undergone various drafts. Seven characters have been reduced to just two, with Craemer effectively and convincingly handling the transitions and character changes. He is an accomplished actor, who commands an appealing presence on stage. Designer Christiane Nowak's fascinating, symbolic use of sneakers to adorn the set and the setting of a bath, an equipped lighting bar and shadow screen lend the play an air of mystery. This is heightened by original music composed by Lara Saulio and Sianna Lee and additional sound by Kimmo Venonnen.
At one point, Craemer says: "Maybe I've run this play for far too long." The production appears to be more process in action than a fully arrived at performance. An autobiographical work, however cathartic for the actor, should create strong connections with the audience. Pigman's Lament is a sincere expression of one man's personal struggle, and the Street Theatre is to be applauded for its initiative to encourage new and original work by local artists. However, though imaginative in its staging in the intimate Street Two and committed in its performance, Craemer's play remains a personal journey, still in need of clearer intent and purposeful connection with its audience.