Faulty [by Matt Baker]
As theatre practitioners, we often find ourselves telling the stories of those who can’t, but story-telling is a false notion. Scriptwriters are told to show, not tell, and it is what they choose to show, or not show, to the audience, which interests the latter. Out of Order tells a lot of stories. From a toaster and self check-out machine to a traffic light and a vacuum cleaner, the sentient junk that inhabits the world of the play has plenty to say, but very little to show or even do. The doing is left up to actress Alice Pearce, whose play is a result of the Story Generator workshop, but generating a story and developing it for theatre are two very different things.
Like many of its characters, the show itself seems to be suffering from an existential crisis. Monologues and vignettes are perfectly valid modes of the theatrical medium, but a story is not simply a conglomerate of ideas that are carelessly tied together by their plastic handles and dumped on the side of the road for the entire world to see. The repetitive introductions of each object that Pearce’s nameless narrator presents to us is a missed opportunity for her genuine discovery of them throughout the piece, and the past tense in the dialogue, on which it eventually settles, removes any sense of tension that could have been created, or added to the dull conflict forcibly interjected into the script.
Any (admittedly scarce) opportunities afforded to tease out story, flesh out characters, and discover dynamism in physicality, are ignored by director Caitlin McNaughton, who leaves Pearce to hold the entire play together with caricatures that wear thin far too quickly for any sustainable value in its current life, and while Pearce is a fundamentally solid actress, the chameleonic requirements of not only a multi-character show, but a solo one, necessitates an ability possessed by few.
Without these integral components to story and character, the onus on the audience to invest anything is binned. Add a remarkably insolent attempt at pathos and a deus ex machina that is, once again, told, not shown, and Out of Order is as unfortunately faulted as the characters which inhabit it.
Out of Order plays at The Basement until May 23. For details see The Basement.