Escape Route

Jeremy Eccles

Morgan Lewis, Bernadette Regan, Shannon Williams, Charles Russel, The Longest Night

Morgan Lewis, Bernadette Regan, Shannon Williams, Charles Russel, The Longest Night

Morgan Lewis, Bernadette Regan, Shannon Williams, Charles Russel, The Longest Night

“It’s about generated fiction that’s based in reality”, said director Alicia Talbot of The Longest Night when she was interviewed (RealTime 47, p 33) in February. My first taste of Urban Theatre Projects was initially clouded by that “generated fiction” idea of the expectation of a more rounded and complete theatrical experience that established the problems of dislocated kids/young adults, and then tried to craft some solutions. After all, UTP hadn’t only been working with Adelaide’s Angle Park community (and Sydney’s High Street Youth Centre in Parramatta), but had had the constant presence of youth and social workers as well.

But the word “protocols” was much in evidence at the Adelaide Festival. It produced a marvellous sense of ceremonial respect at the opening Kaurna Palti Meyunna; it was the excuse for Koori film activists to approve of Ivan Sen’s explicit Beneath Clouds and to mount a campaign against the much softer Australian Rules; and it perhaps accounts for UTP not taking their plays outside the input offered by the primary community they’re working with.

Bernie would love to find a way out of the trap she’s in. Her kid’s in care, and she’d love to be able to prove to the bitch who robs her of him half way through his birthday party that she’s freed herself of dependence on alcohol, drugs and the ‘friends’ who used to share an empty life based around them. But that gut-wrenching loss of her son would weaken the bravest soul. The comfort blanket comes out; Carlos comes in to mend the loo—and the scene is set for some heavy back-sliding.

Where UTP really hit their straps is in making this back-sliding look great fun (at least the first time round); Bernie’s black dog might genuinely have been let off the leash—within the limits of house rules about banging-on only in the unmended loo and no whacking up. But Carlos (Charles Russell) is dealing, Shannon (Shannon Williams) is rapping to oblivion, Lucia (Lucia Mastrantone) is simply twitching for a fix, and Morgan (Morgan Lewis) has the film-making delusions of Cecil B de Mille. As Bernie (Bernadette Regan) withdraws inexorably up the wall, they simply trash the place, and her good intentions.

It’s a really imaginative use of the space; and there’s a strong sense of a Legs on the Wall-style physical theatre to enhance the text. But the problem is that it all happens twice. Second time round it seems as though everybody’s banging a door as they fail to conclude yet another illogical argument. And the music gets louder. Only the front row of little Nunga girls lying on mattresses is still giggling.

It had been lovely to see these girls earlier working with the UTP company in the community centre square—girls tumbling, boys rapping, everybody line dancing. All wore Access All Areas/Artist tags; they were on the team. The audience wore coloured ribbons, denoting a group to be taken on tour by one of the community participants on the project. Ironically, single mum Karina seemed a whole lot better supported by the resources of the Parks Centre than Bernie. Maybe a way out is possible?

Urban Theatre Projects, The Longest Night, director Alicia Talbot, sound Rose Turtle, The Parks Community Centre, Angle Park, Adelaide Festival 2002, March 2-10.

RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 pg. 6

© Jeremy Eccles; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2002