BY LOU PARDI
If you’ve ever sworn you see the curtains at your neighbours move as you pull you’re your driveway or seen the odd eyeball peaking through a knot in the fence, The City is sure to feed all of your domestic paranoia, take you on a dramatic ride and give you a few laughs along they way. Director Adena Jacobs together with Red Stitch Actors Theatre tackles The City, a trip through the psychological minefield of urban life by playwright Martin Crimp.
The City, whilst describing a landscape known well to many of us, is not a simple piece. Nonetheless, having seen Crimp’s sister piece The Country five years ago, Jacobs was keen to take The City script to Red Stitch for their consideration. Red Stitch decide as a group on their projects and luckily for Jacobs, The City was selected. She compares the sister pieces, “The Country is a hot blooded drama whereas The City is a mixture between a hot blooded drama and something very alienating and strange and the mix of the two is something really interesting to rehearse with. The first thing that attracted me was Crimp’s language, which was intricately woven and very witty. The idea of working with actors on a text like that was very attractive. I was attracted to the themes – the insecurities of modern life, questions of where we each belong in society, what our roles are and what roles we play.
“I would describe it as a puzzle I guess on one level it is about a husband and a wife and their journey, and the typical dysfunction you might find urban street. Then, as the play progresses, the layers start revealing and you see there’s actually far more to the play. It’s a very bizarre and beautiful mystery.”
Jacobs prefers this mystery to remain, “I don’t think it’s become apparent to us either [what is real and what is imagined]. That’s the joy of the script in a way, it’s not something that’s meant to be solved, it’s very poetic – it sits on that fine line of what’s real and what’s imagined.”
The play has been directed without input from the writer, Crimp, who generally doesn’t have input into productions of his work. Jacobs says she hasn’t tried to contact him. “I haven’t been brave enough to. I’ve been an admirer of his work for such a long time. I read somewhere he doesn’t tend to see a lot of productions of his work,” she says. Rather, she has been guided by the work, “There’s been a choice the whole way of trying to communicate Crimp’s ideas in the best way possible. How to convey the kind of realities of his work and also allow the audience into the subconscious.”
The play centres around a few central characters, “There’s a husband and wife – the husband’s played by Dion Mills who is part of the Red Stitch ensemble and Clair is being played by Fiona MacLeod. “Chris [the husband] is a man who at the beginning of the play feels the threat of losing his job and his journey has a sense of inadequacy and failure and a sort of paranoia about his role in society. You’re watching the break down of a man in a way and the wife [Clair] is the translator and she is the lynchpin of the story and the narrative. Jenny is their very strange neighbour, she’s an incredible character, she’s someone who you get the sense has been watching from next door and creating her own fantasies. She comes in saying I don’t want to disturb anyone but she actually creates quite a disturbance for them.”
Jacobs concludes, “I guess the only thing I would say is that despite the seriousness of the piece it’s actually also an incredibly funny piece.” Only one way to find out. You’ll never see your friendly neighbour in the same light again.
Previews: Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 September Season: Wednesday 1 – Saturday 25 September Times: Wednesday-Saturday 8.00pm, Sunday 6.30pm Bookings: (03) 9533 8083 or http://www.redstitch.net Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre Rear, 2 Chapel St, St Kilda
This article first appeared in Beat magazine.