Private Jokes, Public Places

Oren Safdie

New End Theatre

(2006)

Review by Rivka Jacobson

One need not be a swimmer or an architect to dive into the fired dialogues that take place by the project for a public pool presented by architecture student Margaret (M. J. Kang).

Stage and auditorium embrace events. We, the audience, are an integral part of the show. We are informed that we are the jury. The Judges are two eminent architects, Erhardt (Colin Starkey) and Colin (Robert East). The two were invited to view, judge and comment on projects presented by students of Architecture. Margaret's professor and lover is William (Michael Gilroy) who is there to give her moral and academic support.

The prelude to examining Margaret's project intimates something of the characteristics of these judges.

Erhardt is generous with convoluted words - take for example his lucid observation of a project they just viewed: 'It's as if you've created a dialectic utopianism'. He does not shy away from sidetracking the project at hand. Colin, on the other hand, is pragmatic and almost laconic. William is desperate to keep the team focused on the project while currying favour with Ehardt and Colin.

Starkey's and East's superb performance would make senior academics proud.

The occasion provides Safdie with an insired platform for undermining the pretentious and patronising stand of the Academics, pulling them into the deep pool where some of their weaknesses are exposed and momentarily reminds them and also inform us of their fallibility.

The two great architects flatter each other mildly. It does not take long before they relish schadenfreude in the course of their 'professional' exchanges.

An under the belt comment by Colin reveals a disastrous project by Erhardt which cost the life of an American tourist. Erhardt is not apologetic for this mishap nor does he express regret about the loss of life of what he terms a 'silly tourist', On the contrary he loses no time to boast that he was awarded the Prix d'Or for that project. It was a bridge in Grand Champs. However, it is a bridge in name only because it leads nowhere - or as the Master puts it, 'It's a Bridge to Contemplate Where it Leads'.

Margaret, exquisitely performed by Kang, is a gentle yet confident female student who will not tolerate male chauvinism even if it comes from the echelons of Academia. She is clear and fierce when it mattered.

Director Leon Rubin, lived up to the challenges of the play. The undercurrents of sarcasm, wit and humour gently but surely surface well above the public swimming pool.