Following up from winning the Writers’ Fellowship award for Sleepyhead, Perth playwright Nathaniel Moncrieff and co-director Sam Farringdon breathe life into the heartrending and violently witty black comedy Tinkertown. If there is one thing this performance knows how to do well, it is generate an atmosphere to reach every corner of the room and spill over the edge.
Foul-mouthed and questionably moral Chester, played by Phil Miolin, kidnaps his fiercely spirited daughter Tammy (Tessa Carmody). He has murdered her mother and aunt; he is broke, an alcoholic, inappropriate, and a poor excuse for a parent; but he wants to get to know her. The sharp banter had the audience laughing aloud and propelled this performance about a father-daughter relationship forward.
While the brilliant support performances by Hannah Day as barmaid Shelly and Jeremy Levi as drunken Roger brought more reality to the internal world, the relationship between Chester and Tammy was the real focus. The most effective dialogue was at the very beginning, when Phil Miolin and Tessa Carmody were warming up their characters; clever and quirky -exaggerated one moment and strongly relatable the next.
It was Tessa Carmody that really stood out for me. Her natural talent is clear from her powerful projection and range of expressions. Not once did she slip out of character; every movement was deliberate, every word filling the stage with a sense of who Tammy really was. Lea Klein’s set and costume design helped to establish the world of the play, but Tessa could have worn striped pyjamas and the audience would still get the message from her performance.
One of the most prominent features of this production was Felicity Groom’s positively chilling live music. Her carefully selected, breathy vocals and eerie guitar performance sent shivers down my spine. It was a perfect way to set the mood, punctuate scenes, and give a sense of intimacy. Coupled with Paul Dubczuk’s video art and the subtle colours and changes of Joe Lui’s lighting design, Felicity’s composition really knitted together each element of the play.
It was a shame that towards the end of the play, the dialogue became more repetitive than anything else. Being cyclical can sometimes work to the advantage of the play, but in this case I found that it just meant the actors did not have the full potential to escalate the action and reach a suitable conclusion. Indeed, the ending came across as unresolved and unsatisfying. It felt disorienting and abrupt.
It is not often that something so darkly funny can stray quite convincingly into more serious territory, but Nathaniel Moncrieff’s Tinkertown manages this without any trouble. The brilliant cast really hold together the performance, even as the fresh, fiery beginning wanes into repetition towards the end. There is something almost quaint about the atmosphere; when you walk away, while somewhat confused, you feel like you really got to know the characters.
Bookings: www.blueroom.org.au / (08) 9227 7005