The Street in association with Cathy Petocz present Where I End & You Begin by Cathy Petocz. Directed by Caroline Stacey. The Street Theatre. Wednesday, October 22 to Saturday, October 25, at 7.30pm; Sunday, October 26, at 6pm. $30-$57. thestreet.org.au.
The Street often ventures into the surreal end of theatre and is not averse to a bit of science-fiction. Challenging design and an imaginative use of performance spaces has become almost a trade mark. Cathy Petocz's first full-length play Where I End & You Begin is clearly in this territory but needs a little more substance to sustain it.
The main Street Theatre space has a stage thrown across it with audience on both sides and the actors making much use of galleries and the auditorium itself. The stage is covered with what looks like white fur and above recycled plastic bags become cloud or galaxy-like. This, accompanied by Gillian Schwab's imaginative lighting, creates an interesting space but the characters that inhabit it and the situations that arise when people try to connect across time and space remain rather undeveloped.
Polly (Kate Hosking) is a futuristic private detective taking on the case of Timothy (Dylan van den Berg), a trainee astronaut who keeps losing his memory. Astronaut Whatshisname (Raoul Craemer) is out in space looking for someone missing out there. Hazel (Ylaria Rogers) seems to be trying to connect rather unsuccessfully with Timothy. Emmanuel (Kabu Okai-Davies) is a stately figure who seems to be sometimes a servant, sometimes some kind of higher power.
It takes a long time but the two stories eventually come together. The characters unfortunately stay distant and it is hard to feel that their predicaments matter. The verbal patterning is fascinating at times but that and poetic visuals do not seem to be enough to sustain what could be a fascinating story of the vagaries of time and space.
Is Tim interested in Hazel at all or is it Polly who is loved by both Tim and his future self? What is the role of the mysterious Emmanuel? It's not that everything needs to be explained or that there needs to be a plodding plot. It's that we have a need to feel something for the characters and their predicaments. It's that there needs to more dramatic tension.
There are certainly some lovely visual moments and even a device where masks are given to the audience to augment the repetition of the image of Polly's face. But the whole piece is all stretched rather thinly over more than 90 minutes.
The Street is playing an important part in the support and development of local writing and production, however, and Petocz's work has often been an impressive part of this. Sometimes it actually takes putting a piece up on stage to find out what the next development might be.