Fully Committed – Nick Curnow and Alexander Butt take us deeper and closer. (Theatre Review)
Brevity Theatre Company with Sydney Independent Theatre Company
24 February to March 1
There are people you fall in love with instantly because a quality shines from them, not as easily defined as beauty, not as fashion conscious as charisma, it’s what TV folk define as the ‘X’ factor and its more elusive than charm and impossible to create if you weren’t born with it. This quality carries with it a passionate drive to perform, a need to be seen, not based in ego, rather a talent for radiating an idea or a presence that far exceeds words or music. You know people who have this quality because they always make you smile, they magically engulf you in an intangible warmth, and looking at them is a secret fascination.
Nick Curnow is one of these people. When I first saw Fully Committed at the Sydney Fringe festival I was dazzled by the play, by Nicks skillful acting, Alex Butt’s cheerful attentive direction that gave Nick all the room he needed and Becky Mode’s fabulous writing that so lovingly and thoughtfully encapsulated a day in the life of the out of work actor, recognising they are often coerced into work they hate, forcing all their personal drive into sublimation rather than creation. I marveled at Nick’s talent – Fully Committed is a play designed specifically to display an actors skills – I laughed and basked in the warmth of his overflowing presence with the rest of the audience. Fully Committed is one of those fantastic plays that make an hour seem like ten minutes.
This time around, Alex and Nick have gone a little further into the character of Sam, subtly drawing out certain moments of engagement, so that the deeper nuances of Becky Mode’s play rise closer to the surface. By pacing the performance, not so that the rapidity is deadened, but rather giving the audience a couple of extra nanoseconds for foraging, the play becomes an exciting meta narrative of the contemporary state of acting, the deadening effects of ‘the day job’ and the surreal world of the out-of-w0rk actor who surely must struggle with the boundaries between the world of the stage and the world of society in which they are not necessarily comfortably at home. This second viewing of Fully Committed places an audience at the heart of the actors surreal encounters with the real world, a world they are permanently trying to both replicate and transcend. If the writer is the observer, then the actor is the usurper of human nature, defining it, realigning it, and projecting it back onto the world like a magnified mirror, their task as relentless and incapable of being transmuted into passive receiver. In this way, Fully Committed is a remarkable moment in time when the audience can imbibe an actor, playing an actor, who is playing one of us in a performance that invigorates the notion of all the worlds a stage, speaking to the separateness as well as the unity of our disparate voices.
All of this depth is further enhanced by Benjamin Brockman’s lighting. This time around, three oppressive fluorescent lights act as both cage and silent judge over the top of Sam as he furiously engages with his day. They’re like sentinels, emblematic beings that dictate mood and herald key moments in Sam’s day via their distinctive flicker and the all too familiar oppressive electric blue heat they emit. Brockman has placed them like guards reaching over the warm glowing talent Curnow’s Sam, as if his ‘X’ factor is slowly being sucked into a meaningless capitalist well where theatrically charming the monied has more value than theatre. They stand in opposition to invisable (and yet also present) theatre lights, and the energetic cry of the actor in their natural environment, the stage.
This version of Fully Committed is still a dazzling feat of energetic brilliance, but there is more to feast upon than its glittery surface. It is to be expected this sort of performance will improve with time, but under Alex’s careful direction, and Benjamin’s commanding lights, Nick Curnow’s schizophrenic Sam, the actor walking around among us with all those characters bubbling up inside him, shines with an intelligent depth that comfortably reflects the great comic timing and brilliant characterisation Curnow is able to manifest.
Fully Committed and Nick Curnow just keep getting better and better.
Photo’s Supplied by Julie Baz and Katy Green Loughrey.