Review: Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise
Playwright Harry Kondoleon had a very special contempt for long “family argument” plays where the on-stage brawling was less interesting than the fights you have in your own home. So, this play is both short (about an hour) and ‘heightened’.
Kristina Brew, sleight of hand and acting magic as Bethany
Unless you are dating a Berkoff-trained actor -- or some other kind of very highly strung artist -- the theatrics in Kondoleon’s play Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise should eclipse your own domestics... by about a million watts.
That said, the play might only make complete sense to highly-strung arty types. (Or those they have scorched.) Kondoleon’s idea of heightened involves putting his characters on the rack and stretching them until limbs come out of sockets. Or nailing them to a lover’s cross.
Here, a writer runs off with the partner of a close friend after a dinner party. The writer’s own ex has recently tried to kill herself. It’s like a David Lynch version of Patrick Marber’s Closer.
This early and rarely-staged play -- an Australian premiere according to the company producing it -- is an absolute treat for aficionados of non-soapy theatre and for practicing thesps. It calls for real bravura, exuberance and top physical and vocal skills from its cast of four.
Josh Price, jaw-droppingly good as the jilted Alvin
This company of young VCA acting graduates absolutely nails it. The acting is spectacular and really quite delicious without crossing over into indulgence... a fine line! Every detail of Ben Pfeiffer’s production is thought-out, exact and cleanly delivered, from the table setting on the ceiling to the choreography to the high-key paint job and lighting.
Marissa Bennett as Adel, slashed wrists healing
Josh Price’s hunched, distracted, vulture-like performance as the jilted Alvin is jaw-droppingly good. He makes a gullible and utterly wacky character seem entirely authentic. "I seem to have misplaced God," he announces. Likewise Kristina Brew (as Alvin’s partner Bethany) does an extraordinary conjuring job, all sleight of hand and acting magic.
Not for everyone, perhaps... but we're a very lucky few.
A shortened version of this review was published in the Herald Sun yesterday.
La Croggon's review is here.