In Black Swan’s last hurrah for 2013 the company brings a bit of Edinburgh Fringe to Perth with Midsummer [a play with songs] by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre. The show was a fringe hit back in 2008 and comes to the Heath Ledger Theatre, under the direction of Damon Lockwood, starring Georgina Gayler as Helena and Brendan Hanson as Bob.
The program warns us not to mistake the show for Shakespeare, even though this Midsummer has a Helena. It warns us that what we’re about to see is not for children and throws “Japanese rope bondage” at us quite casually, just above the title. I’m sure that, despite the warnings in all the publicity and media for the production, there were some folks who just didn’t bother to read the fine print and got quite a shock when, instead of a band of fairies and a man with an ass’s head, they saw a live band and a talking penis head.
Midsummer is the story of two not-so-young lovers who meet in a bar; get drunk; have unplanned sex; and then go their separate ways only to be reunited again, a day later, at random on the street. They decide to throw caution to the wind again, this time in grander fashion, with greater abandon (this is where the Japanese rope bondage comes in). Far-fetched? Yes. Unbelievable? Not if you tell it right.
The thing about wild tales about the ‘lost weekend’ is that the audience has to be swept up in the forward motion of events, and the characters need to pull us along with them through each twist and turn. This show dwells over-long on the characters’ moments of soul-searching, through songs by Gordon McIntyre, which feel superfluous and somehow slightly uncool for the rest of the material. Greig also makes the characters recount the story in third person, forcing the two actors to constantly disembody themselves.
In addition, this production in particular, the action was bogged down by the actors constantly having to modulate the set for no practically justifiable reason than to expose yet another nook or cranny that housed a particular hidden prop.
The Heath Ledger Theatre is simply the wrong venue for a show like this, which calls for a more intimate, grungier, less formal space; the kind that doesn’t require a set that does magic tricks. Indeed, designer Fiona Bruce has curtained off most of the stage area, with Lockwood playing everything downstage to give it the feel of a smaller venue.
Gayler and Hanson, for the most part, do a fine, careful job with the accents, thanks to the coaching of Julia Moody, and the music is pleasantly arranged and directed by Ben Collins. In fact, the production is very carefully and pleasantly arranged for mass consumption, despite its insistence that we be prepared for something reckless and wild, proving that while you can take the show out of Fringe, you can also take the fringe out of the show.
Sat 9 Nov – Sun 24 Nov 2013