(extra)ordinary, (un)usual – Pete Malicki and the power of one. (Theatre Review)
The survival of theatre in the digital age is an ongoing conversation; lows pitted are against highs, optimism against pessimism and of course the eternal conversation about the dollar. Theatre is at home among other arts in its awkward swim for survival, with books, music, art and even film finding itself battling the oceans of free digital entertainment. As with all things, the fears have evolved into facts and different kinds of action are striving to meet the challenges of this cultural revolution head on. Pete Malicki is a case in point. A key figure in the enormously successful Short and Sweet theatre festival that now sees itself situated as the largest ten minute play theatre event in the world, Malicki sees theatre as becoming a more accessible medium as part of the solutions to combating the digital age. If theatre is to compete with film and television for viewers, then it needs to be entertaining.
This is in stark contrast to another world-wide trend for theatre, which is to establish itself as more “high-brow” and the ultimate test, if you like, for an actor or director. Plays that are short, sharp, entertaining, inexpensive and include a little mental twist are Malicki’s forte, in stark contrast to the growing trend of expensive, meaning-laden, star-studded events (or cheery musicals) that dominate main stream theatre. Malicki takes theatre for the people to a whole new level, competing directly with film and television, and using what is unique about theatre (real people, real audience) to make an impact its competitors can’t challenge. In fact, reading Pete Malicki’s web page, he comes across a little as a the Tim Ferriss of theatre (I hope that doesn’t offend him), one of those radical optimists who happily displays his video gaming credits alongside his many (many many) writing award credits. Like all mavericks, Malicki is a very loud, very ADD-ish mover behind the scenes. He and his work are destined to become one of those “overnight success” stories, when he’s been plugging shamelessly and joyfully away for years.
The Monologue Project was created in response to the need for HSC drama students to have access to quality ten minute plays that they could perform in practise and in exam competition format. Malicki, having all these plays he’s written seeking production, offers all his monologues free from the website, only asking for credits and permission requests to be able to use them. The monologues are comedy and drama theatre and range from a checkout-chicks cry through to an Aussie using the Dracula mythology to get laid. The funny vignettes are very funny and the serious ones quite challenging. Malicki strives for entertainment, but isn’t content with simply “theatre-candy”, so there is a little darkness to the funny and a little light to the drama every time.
Last night and tonight only, there is a chance for the lucky to sample eight of Malicki’s eighteen short plays currently on offer at The Monolgoue Project website.
Eliza St John plays a sultry sexy woman drinking herself silly on Valentines Day (VD – get it?) for the sixteenth time in a row, when a mysterious bunch of roses with an invitation from an admirer comes her way. Naturally she is suspicious, but when she finds out who it is, she is even more challenged, eventually realizing its almost impossible for her to make her dreams a reality. Eliza is back at the end of the set with the eighth play, a year on from her first experience, when she is challenged by a perfect date again.
Jessica Heath is currently an HSC student, happy to put her enormous talent on display in the short play Frenemies. Teenage bullying is a hot topic as kids rarely imagine their actions can have dire consequences, especially when their behaviors are on behalf of fitting in. Frenemy takes bullying to its super conclusion, hitting home the horrible truths about viciousness directed at those without the ability to properly defend themselves.
Screams and Whispers
Charlotte Connor takes on the very large challenge of screaming, crying, and even whispering animal noises in this one-woman-acting showcase. Screams and Whispers is funny writing, but its the acting that will pull the play off or leave it flailing, in a fine piece of writing by Pete Malicki. Connor does a great job with this very interesting idea, cleverly weaving her difficult performance, almost taking on the role of each animal she claimed to “hear.”
Scott Grimley is more than terrifying in this short piece that asks us who is really good and who is really bad in our mixed up world of crime in the absence of superheroes or a robin hood. Is stealing the lives of the morally corrupt the wrong thing to do, or are we simply waiting for someone with the courage (or lack of empathy) to do what we wish we had the courage to do all along?
Nat Backhouse does a fine job with the rather difficult material of making an Aussie misogynistic homophobe a loveable character, and yet he cleverly pulls it off. He plays a thirty-five year old virgin who has finally decided deceit is the best way to get laid. (personal note, I thought the idea of a thirty-five year old misogynistic virgin who can’t work out why he can’t get laid was an excellent idea)
With easily the best piece of writing of the show, Rosemary Ghazi takes splendid advantage of this very funny, very clever short piece of theatre. This surprising, witty ten minute play was the standout of the night, and Ghazi an excellent performer to bring it to fruition. Ghazi is a slight female, and without giving any of the plot away it works very well to her as the lead in what can be a unisex role. She is very funny, doing the fine writing proud.
Sarah North is a finely strung instrument in this difficult drama piece about a person with an extreme nervous condition. Another challenging piece, North does a great job in lifting the suspense out of the narrative, creating so much tension that crossing a road and catching a bus are fully realized as dangerous acts.
Lewis Scamozzi was our host for the evening as well as stage manager in the Pete Malicki not-quite-one-man-show, which shows a lot of courage and commitment in itself. He is a fine buffer of sorts between the audience, the actors and Malicki, giving us all breathing room, and proper space to see each of the plays unfold as their own entities. (extra)ordinary, (un)usual is a great night of showcase theatre, that you will be glad you attended. Particularly useful for students of drama and those wanting to use the plays or be part of The Monologue Project in the future.