Icarian Heights [by Matt Baker]
“Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics” is not the definition I would use to describe Perfect Place. While there are no new stories under the sun, Colin Garlick’s complete lack of an attempt to re-imagine, or at the very least thinly veil, one iota of the stories he has haphazardly drafted onto the page is frankly insulting, with the “stranger in a new world” stumbling over the “freedom of choice” tied together with a borderline plagiarised Tyler Durden-Mark Renton monologue. In what I presume was an attempt to compensate the barrenness of Garlick’s script, As Expected have over-loaded the creative team with not only two directors, but a dramaturg. Regardless, Lauren Gibson and Zinzan Selwyn only have so much with which to work, and I’m at a loss to Katy Maudlin’s contribution.
Taylor Hall’s character has no backstory, which has apparently led Hall to not establish one for his own performance purpose. He’s supposed to be our everyman, but he’s the least interesting character with which we’re presented. Eli Matthewson gives a pitch perfect performance – luckily, the lack of a three-dimensional character allows Matthewson to let loose his natural comedic abilities with complete abandon. Greta Gregory has the most layers, but her initial incomplete articulation in physicality, especially compared to Mathewson, means she doesn’t earn the right to play them. Fasitua Amosa’s best work comes when it has no surface-level play against in his way and the affability of his casual ability to entertain can shine. Amanda Tito has the most to play in regards to the extremity of the style of the production, but, again, she only has so far to go with the role.
John Kaminski’s set design is the saving grace of this production, with a great amount of detail beyond the superficial pastel colours that haunt it. Fraser Mildon’s costume design is equally apt, although Hall looks more like a Canadian Mountie than a bush-walking New Zealand youth on walkabout. Rachel Marlow and Brad Gledhill’s lighting design serves its illuminative purpose, but Riley Mooney’s operation cannot accommodate the abruptness of the all-too-short and occasionally purposeless scenes, while Thomas Press’ sound design provides the atmospheric depth lacking in the text.
I know the story of Perfect Place. I’ve come across it many times, in many different mediums. For any morally sound human being the questions it raises are barely evident unless one is to invest in a philosophical debate of Nichomachean depths. The only question this play raises for me, however, is why As Expected had any interest in telling this version of it, when it fails everyone involved besides the design team on every level.
Perfect Place is presented by As Expected and plays at The Basement until October 25. For details see iTicket.
SEE ALSO: Theatreview review by Nik Smythe