REVIEW: The Cave (Garnet Station Tiny Theatre)

A Satisfying Squeeze [by Andrew Parker]

It seems sort of appropriate that Kate Watson’s The Cave, a show so concerned with size, plays out in Garnet Station’s Tiny Theatre – where space isn’t wildly abundant for either the players or the audience. What better setting for a drama of sexual function and dysfunction performed by actors often wielding impressively proportioned dildos? Squeezed in there with a full house, it’s intimate in all senses of the word.

Watson and David Capstick play Sophie and Grant – new parents struggling to get their sex life back on track. After a muddled attempt at intercourse exposes some new difficulties with “rocking the Casbah”, both independently decide to do the logical thing and surgically revitalise their ailing love-making. She thinks she’s too big (the title’s a metaphor in case that hasn’t sunk in yet) and he thinks he’s too small. Fortunately modern medicine is here to save the day.

Initially I wasn’t certain I quite understood the tone the show was taking. The first scenes of Sophie and Grant together neatly encapsulate their marital strife but, perhaps due to first night nerves, didn’t seem to do much to sell them as a couple or their problems as being especially weighty. This uneasiness clears up as soon as the pair begin doubling as each others’ doctors and the script commits to a farcical, almost dream-like logic, as these ordinary people find themselves at the mercy of eccentric and dubiously-credentialed quacks who push them towards getting their naughty-bits either scaled up or down.

The Cave is genuinely hilarious in these segments, with both Watson and Capstick going gleefully over the top as they expound upon the risks and benefits of vaginoplasty and penis-enlargement – the high point being where Grant is called upon to play out he and his wife’s bedroom antics with an Action Man and a Barbie (“Good, you’re using props” says Dr. McCarton approvingly). Watson as a writer well understands the classic comedy tropes she’s playing with and pushes the humiliation of the lead couple just far enough, creating some superbly squirm-inducing moments (partcilularly when talking about the medical realities of these procedures).

The final portion of the piece meanders a little more, the main punchline being obvious for a little while before its unveiled and the mystery of what has been going on not majorly gripping as it’s pretty clear there can be no real explanation for the preceding lunacy. The cast, however, were well into the swing of things by this stage, especially in some very funny scenes featuring Mary Rinaldi as a contemptuous receptionist and a lisping, leaking survey taker. All three, and director Regan Crummer, confidently and committedly carry the piece to its finale, never letting the energy flag.

The conclusion actually manages to be rather touching for something described as a “pitch black” comedy. The Cave has a simple, uncomplicated message and affection for its characters which means that its take on marital politics isn’t as stinging as it might have been, but which ensures you’ll leave with a big smile on your face. And given the focus on insecurity and alienation it feels well-judged that Watson should conclude her script on a feel-good note of genuine connection.

The Cave is presented by Umbilical Theatre and The Teatro Group  and plays at Garnet Station Tiny Theatre until 14 June. Details see Garnet Station

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