“Two possibilities exist. Either we are alone in the universe, or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Arthur C. Clarke.
Pale Blue Dot, written by local actor/playwright Kathryn Marquet and developed as part of La Boite’s Playwrights-in-Residence program, premiered at the La Boite theatre on 26th July to an enthusiastically receptive audience.
The locally set comedy follows Toowoomba insurance fraud investigator Joel Pinkerton (Hugh Parker) after he is called out to investigate an alien abduction claim; a policy that was setup as a publicity stunt by the insurance company some years ago. The claimant, a German immigrant Greta (Caroline Kennison), took out the policy after her pilot husband mysteriously disappeared during a flight three years ago. Greta’s sole purpose since then has been to protect her sixteen-year-old daughter Storm (Ashlee Lollback), who has recently been found in a field in Roma 200km away, after her school formal night.
Although the plotline is about an insurance man investigating an alien abduction case, and the play poses the global question of whether we are alone in the universe, the story is a more personal one about the alienation felt within ourselves and between each other.
Sometimes pure comedy and a dramady at others, the writing is clever and witty. Especially refreshing is the role of Joel’s wife Holly (Lucy Goleby), who is struggling with looking after a baby that doesn’t come with instructions, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and body image self-esteem issues that come with being a new mum. Everyone goes gaga over a baby but these not-so-cute closed-door issues are never spoken about in public. Exploring them in a play with a comic treatment that increasingly gets more serious in the second act is an artful act of writing by Marquet and direction by Michael Futcher.
Goleby as Holly is brave, likeable, relatable and compelling to watch. Caroline Kennison as the stalwart Greta is straight-down-the-line funny. She commands the stage as the character demands, while still being a giving actor to the other cast members. Her smaller role as Deidre Spinnaker, the organiser of the Darling Downs UFO society however, is a scene-stealer and no-one minds one bit. Think head of the tuckshop committee and you get Deidre. These intermittent scenes are hilarious and provide the needed comedic spikes amongst the more serious scenes in the second act.
Hugh Parker as Joel Pinkerton is, in a word – superb. The gamut of emotions of a man who feels he’s doing the devils work for an insurer who prides themselves on not approving insurance claims (both fraudulent and real, including the 2011 floods), while simultaneously navigating parenthood is quite a task. Navigating the soul destroying drudgery of work, the temptations of a sexually frustrated man, while trying to support an hysterically out-of-her-depth new mum and out-of-control wife is truly commendable work. Parker breezes through the inhospitable landscape with the comfortable ease of someone who is totally committed to the work and a true craftsman of his profession.
The minimalist set design by Josh McIntosh was genius. Consisting wholly of white, with a risen platform up the back, a few medium sized boxes scattered on the outskirts with hidden doors, and a circular platform centrepiece that spirals in towards a stargazing portal on the floor, where projections of the universe spin around. In collaboration with lighting designer Jason Glenwright and projection designers optikal bloc, this is a real visual showpiece that creates an almost hypnotic sci-fi atmosphere.
Congratulations to Kathryn Marquet, cast, and creatives for bringing together a premiere production of the highest quality that Brisbane can be proud of.
LaBoite’s Pale Blue Dot will be playing at the Roundhouse Theatre in Kelvin Grove until August 9.