King St Theatre, Théâtre Excentrique & EMU productions
Director: Markus Weber
Playwright: Steve McGrath
Synopsis: An exotic wilderness. Three men and a birthday cake. In this world premiere of Leaves, you are invited along on a dark and hilarious lost weekend in a new Australian play by Steve McGrath.
Chas has arranged his old school friends; Harvey, a lawyer, and Wilbur; a psychiatrist, to spend a camping weekend in a remote paradise. Chas may be a successful real estate agent, but has he chosen heaven or hell?
As they attempt to celebrate turning 50 years old together, their campfire tales take a muddy detour during a feast of booze, beef and barbiturates. Will they make it to Monday morning – or will their weekend become “Waiting for Godot” meets “Picnic at Hanging Rock”?
Review: ‘Leaves’ has been clearly written about a subject matter that is important to the men who star in it. McGrath’s writing is knowing, comical and saturated with reflective thought about life and love. The three characters Harvey played by Martin Ashley Jones, Chas (Gerry Sont) and Wilbur (Steve MGrath) are a trio of vastly different men, their unique quirks and qualities good and vulgar make an interesting combination.
Unfortunately direction by Markus Weber was somewhat hard to decipher. Weber clearly had a lot of ideas, his execution was somewhat awkward, the use of multimedia came across as trivial and did not add to the rhythm of the play more than it did cause distraction and at some points utter confusion as to what he was trying to portray by using them. What ever the why was lost. The lights often disappeared in spurts which again seemed like a mistake, sometimes projection was used in these dark snippets and sometimes it was just weird. Weber focused way to much on the literal aspects of this production in terms of props which made for clunky dialogue and scattered movement, especially for Gerry Sont who was found fighting his way through the play with dead objects which makes for awkward theatre for all involved.
Gerry Sont, whose character Chas drove the show gave a passionate performance, though I wish Weber had insisted Sont dig a little deeper as his performance came across shallow at times.
Steve McGrath, was the standout amongst his peers. His portrayal of the odd psychiatrist Wilbur was like watching an older version of the character of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. An odd ball character with a dry humour that was infectiously giggle worthy and suiting to the odd structure of the play itself. A natural performer in every aspect of his performance.
Martin Ashley Jones performance was laid back and nonchalant and very Aussie to the core. A womanising barrister and in my opinion vile. The type of women who would fall into his trap would be equally as vile, with little self-respect. Besides my dislike of his prize sexist view on woman his performance met the mark. Though he could improve on his projection and articulation as it was hard to hear him at points or understand what he was saying.
The first act was a bit of a bumpy ride and the second felt much more in rhythm which is to be expected on opening night. Meyerhold himself said that “It takes 50 performances before a show finds its curve and shape.” Unfortunately in independent theatre there is no such luxury, one or two previews is as good as it gets.
In ‘Leaves’ case less would certainly be more. The lights, distracting sound scape and projections were white noise that took away from the text dramatically. The play Dramaturgically was weak and need more attention, especially due to a very apocryphal ending.
‘Leaves’ is a play aimed at an audience of ageing males and felt very boys club in its entirety, emotionally nostalgic for those facing old age and for those involved in making this show. Relevant to some and not for the rest. It had its moments of enjoyment but overall was oddly directed and I couldn’t reference its similarity to Godot or Picnic at Hanging Rock, not in a positive perspective anyhow.
Playing until 29th of November at King Street Theatre