A car-full of motherfuckers: Apocalypse Bear Trilogy by Lally Katz
(I believe this is a Walter Wick image.)
The first part of the trilogy, performed without break, is The Fag From Zagreb. (It was first presented as part of Melburnalia at fortyfivedownstairs in 2007.)
A schoolboy just home (Luke Mullins in short pants) finds a bear in his kitchen instead of his mother. The bear -- who politely introduces himself as The Apocalypse Bear -- makes Jeremy a peanut butter and cheese sandwich (pickles on the side) while the boy talks about his day (“I raped a faggot up the arse”) and messages a suicidal man in Zagreb from his laptop.
According to the bear (Brian Lipson in a slack-jawed bear suit), Jeremy’s mother is out shopping and his sister has been raped and murdered by “a car load of motherfuckers.” That said, she might be upstairs quietly doing her homework.
At this point, I’m thinking: Little Red Riding Hood, Gerald the Gorilla from Not The Nine O’Clock News (“When I caught Gerald, he was completely wild.” “Wild? I was absolutely livid!”) as well as the obvious bunnies: Donny Darko and Bat For Lashes (‘What’s A Girl To Do’).
The David Lynch twist happens in the centre section. (The rest of this paragraph might be considered a spoiler... take it or skip it. Your choice!) In it, a schoolgirl (Katherine Tonkin) in America reminisces about the husband she couldn’t satisfy, way back in her future. She chats away to the increasingly creepy and sinister bear, reminiscent of Robert Blake’s Mystery Man character in Lost Highway.
But enough of the plot and its fascinating resolution. The third section is the clincher for a number of reasons. Not least because it reveals a previously unexplored side of the playwright. It’s a touching domestic scene, far less surreal than those that have preceded it.
If David Lynch is the predominant influence in the writing, then Brian Eno rules the rest. The settings in the first two plays recall Eno’s “video paintings” of the 1980s, most famously Thursday Afternoon. Martyn Coutts slow-moving, phase shifting projections are of a domestic kitchen (Fag From Zag) and a school cafeteria in the second play.
The excellent original music also brings Eno to mind, though Jethro Woodward’s music is more focussed and urgent than most (certainly not all) of Eno’s compositions.
One way or another, Apocalypse Bear is a great step for both Katz and the Melbourne Theatre Company. It’s also an unexpectedly apt overture for Brett Sheehy’s first Melbourne Festival in which video paintings are everywhere (from Peter Greenaway’s video described Last Supper to the animated frieze in Sasha Waltz’s Medea) and music/sound design is an essential and overwhelming presence in just about every single art form.
Apocalypse Bear Trilogy by Lally Katz. Directed by Luke Mullins and Brian Lipson. Chris Kohn, artistic adviser. Sound design and original music by Jethro Woodward. Lighting by Richard Vabre. Set and costume design by Mel Page. Video by Martyn Coutts.
A Stuck Pigs Squealing production presented by the Melbourne Theatre Company and the Melbourne International Arts Festival. At the MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio, until October 24.
Look out for my review of the trilogy in the Herald Sun, this week. See also On Stage (And Walls) review.