Underground Productions (resident student theatre company at UQ) presented a double bill of One Act Plays – Bang on the Nerve written by Van Badham and Bed written by Brendan Cowell, both with a common theme of a bedroom setting.
Directors Hilde Hooper and Isabel Mansgfield described Bang on the Nerve as “two twenty-somethings caught up in their stagnant jobs, messy breakups, vacuous shags but most of all; caught up in themselves”. Set in Louis’ bedroom (which I might add was refreshing to see a fully dressed set), the two besties spar, bicker, bitch, moan, rant, confort, cajole and test each other as they tip toe around the landmines of love, sex, gender, and politics.
A youthful play about contempory relationships, marinated in a good dose of feminism, was a recipe for success – finally a script with substance. Tom Walter as Louis was charismastic, at ease on stage and had a very natural acting style. The role also allowed Tom to showcase his musical talents in which he played the guitar and sang with surprisingly great vocal quality. Bec Hill as the feminist Elle was expressive and vibrant but at times seemed to ramble so much that I wondered if either her rambling was distracting her train of thought or that she had actually forgotten the words and the stumbling was an attempt to find them or cover it up.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this production of Bang on the Nerve – a well written script with meaning and humour, good actors, great set and costuming – or lack there of 😉 made for a good night of theatre.
The second play Bed, was a fascinating exploration of one man’s life (Phil played by Michael Mortimore) through his significant relationships, and all set around his bed as the title suggests. The journey follows his sexual experimentation with a boy as a teenager (Kane played by Regan Lynch), a slightly needy girlfriend in college (Daisy played by Lauren Ware), his wife and children in adult life (Grace played by Rosie Funder), a younger man who was almost like a sex slave in his mid-years (Drew played by James Hay), and a transvestite in his later years (Flo played by Gretchen Johnson).
The structure of the play was like three acts cycling through the beginning, middle, and end of each relationship. A nice device used to highlight each setting was a lit image in the background, symbolising the type of relationship. I found the concept of the play and the structure unique and fascinating. I didn’t feel confined by the one bed setting at all, but I did find the second cycle of relationships just reiterated some of the first cycle which didn’t advance the story as much as it could have.
This is where the lull in the play happened and perhaps tightening the script here could have helped keep the pace up. Michael Mortimore as Phil did a great job playing all the different ages of the character utilising changes in speech and physicality. The actors who made up the various lovers were well cast and convincing in each of their roles, creating a colourful landscape for Phil’s story.
Overall, a fresh concept and delightful to watch, and with just a few snips to the script, this production would make a thoroughly captivating piece of theatre.