Jumping the gun: Ranters Theatre’s Intimacy and Affection
It’s heretical, I know, but I wasn’t a great fan of the much lauded Holiday, Ranters’ last blockbuster, which the Malthouse gave a second life. But -- as I explain below -- I was happy to sit back and see what developed next from this adventurous, restless, intriguing company.
In winter last year, the next evolutionary step in the Cortese collaboration had an early showing. To the Paul Lum/Patrick Moffatt mix of Holiday, Ranters announced it was adding Heather Bolton. For anyone familiar with Bolton’s work, the mere mention of her name was enough to light up the mind. What a perfect choice. That expectant look she has perfected -- it seems to hold introversion and extraversion in perfect suspension -- would be a perfect addition to any sequel.
As it happens, Bolton was a late scratching from the production (which was entitled Affection) for personal reasons. Beth Buchanan -- no stranger to the work of the Corteses -- filled in, script in hand. And she lounged about, very much at home, as if the script were a magazine to leaf through while hangin’ with friends.
Intimacy (the play that opens tonight) reunites Buchanan, Lum and Moffatt. I’ve gotta say, I can’t wait.
After the jump is my review of Affection.
Affection by Ranters Theatre. FULL TILT at the Arts Centre. Black Box, until July 11, 2009.
What a journey Raimondo Cortese has had as a writer for the stage. His very earliest pieces were loose baggy monsters, novels turned into plays. A Shakespearean phase, lush and erotic, followed. Then came the pointillism, around the time of St Kilda Tales, where dialogue would come in tiny flashes, lit up and snuffed out.
But each step he has taken away from the dazzling, heightened, poetic language of, say, Lucrecia and Cesare (1994) has been a step towards something. I want to call it ‘verismo’ but it’s the ‘truth’ of literature (like Zola) rather than the potboiling melodrama of Italian opera. The language has become more and more natural -- indistinguishable from conversations we might eavesdrop on -- but there are blueprints... a clear, if hidden, structure. The dramatic ‘action’ has all but disappeared.
Cortese’s last play, Holiday, won rave reviews and a swag of awards. But, I’ve gotta say, it didn’t do it for me. Even on second viewing. (It was picked up by the Malthouse in its Tower Theatre program.) But I was happy to keep my mouth shut knowing that Cortese was off on a new tangent.
If Holiday was Cortese’s latest Big Bang, then this newest play, Affection, is the evolutionary step at which the dust starts to form into galaxies. There is a thematic coherence that Holiday singularly lacked. The sand’s just the same, but now we have castles instead of dunes.
Like Holiday, Affection stars Paul Lum and Patrick Moffatt, who (again) have random, ricocheting bursts of conversation broken up with longish silences and the odd ancient (and not so ancient) song, from Frere Jacques to the Ramones. Added to the mix, here, is a third variable, a young woman played by Beth Buchanan. She’s their flirtatious host, innocently offering food, kisses and the odd massage.
The character Lum plays (they’re all unnamed) sleeps on couches and has few possessions. He’s part way between adolescence and enlightenment, a kind of Po-Mo hobo. Just as he charms his new friends, they all charm us... with eye contact, big smiles and a winsome openness.
There’s a great deal of craft here, at every level, from acting and direction (Adriano Cortese) to the restless lighting design (Niklas Pajanti), but the effect is everything. And that, regrettably, is entirely indescribable. You’ll have to see it for yourself.