Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Killing the Dream

Nick Bain
Mixed Company and Blank Thorn
Tara Studio
(2009)

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The lot of the actor: chaffing, lecherous directors, alcoholism, heartbreak, chronic vanity, homicide. A thankless schedule further upset by the crumbling distinction between reality and falsehood. Or so the argument runs here.

Nick Bain's dramatization offers moments of wit and is successful in generating some sympathy for jobbing actors (though comparisons to Tennyson's fallen Light Brigade are far fetched), and Arni Krisjansson's direction is unfussy and taut, but the final punch is caught somewhere between doing too much and too little. This contradiction, however, and the questions present within it, is enough to render this worthwhile theatre.

It is Kate - young, blonde, ambitious - that is chaffed, by a pineapple. It is James, owing to Kate's fling with a Hollyoaks casting director, that is heartbroken. It is Kerry - young, blonde, ambitious - that is killed, owing to a near-kiss with James. And it is a dusty and bearded drunkard who gets drunk, often and amusingly.

To further stir emotions, a devilish monkey with fangs and a Spanish accent (Nelly Fernandez) orchestrates feuds and havoc, terminating in an Operatic shoot-out that goes off with a premature and farcical bang.

The monkey is on everyone's shoulder and embodies, one infers, the threshold between the real and unreal and also the anxiety and disillusionment suffered by actors battling for work. Fernandez plays the feisty mammal well - her movements are smooth and surreptitious - but the monkey's tendency to illuminate subtext and clarify plot developments is at times frustrating. The subtext - which is mostly smart and interesting - might have worked better if delivered with greater discretion.

Bain's text has irony and humour - chiefly brought out in Snorri Kristjansson's lyrical drunkard - but can too often be heard turning its cogs. It is unfortunate, and a little ironic, that a play so conscious of artifice and illusion should still suffer from stilted, and at times predictable, dialogue. Further, too much is compressed into too little: the fall-out, face-off, attempted reconciliation and then final severance between Kate and James all happen in a five minute scene. It is difficult to believe, but perhaps that is exactly the point. After all, 'what can we believe?' is a question hot on Bain's lips.

Reviewer: Ben Aitken