Seven Days in the Life of Simon Labrosse – the delicate and tragic beauty of being human. (Theatre Review)

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Seven Days In The Life Of Simon Labrosse

Theatre Excentrique, Creative Space 99 Darlinghurst.

18-29 May 2016. You can grab your tickets here.

Image credits: Emma Lois

As Simon Labrosse (Gerry Sont) reveals his life to us in Seven Days In The Life of Simon Labrosse, we are forced to confront the dichotomy Capitalism demands; The difference between what is something and what is nothing. Somehow it seems, as we journey with him, all metaphysical spectres arise from the antagonisms of real-life. The reality of everyday material social life – people suffering and consuming and so forth – and the Real of the speculative dance of Capital, its self-propelling movement which seems so disconnected from physical reality. As Simon reminds us, this gap becomes more Real when we experience a country in economic chaos, or a country of “The Hopeless” as Simon calls them. There is ecological decay and human misery, and yet these situations are explained to us as part of a normal cycle by economists. Writer Carole Frechette’s point is not that the mad dance of commodities arises out of the strange flux of human life. Rather, her point is, we cannot grasp the social reality of material production and social interaction without the self propelling metaphysical dance of Capitalism running the show that provides the key to real-life developments and catastrophes. As Simon becomes more and more desperate to be of service to his fellow humans in exchange for money, we find the human psyche assimilated into the commodified dance of Capitalism that sweeps everything up in its path and separates it from a distinguishable Real.

It is within this constant movement that perspective is navigated by the Capitalist dance. In a clear display of Capitalism’s authorization, jobs Simon creates such as ‘Sentence finisher,’ ‘Emotional Stuntman,’ and ‘Audience’ are the direct collision of the human experience and its separation from reality through commodification. Most prophetic of these choices (Carole Fréchette wrote the play in 1993, over ten years before Facebook)   is that of ‘Audience,’ a task Simon assigns himself, observing his customer thereby making them feel ‘more real.’ Not surprisingly, his customers’ initial response is a debilitating self-consciousness, causing her to be ‘more fake.’ The suggestion here is that it is not just the unwavering gaze that makes her uncomfortable but the transaction that arranges it. Anyone can look for free. It is when the gaze is commodified that the unreal takes hold.

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There is so much more cerebral pleasure to be had in Carole Fréchette’s wonderful play Seven Days In The Life of Simon Labrosse than the cavernous well I’ve opened above. Director Anna Jahjah moves her players around the delightful Creative Space 99, using all the room available as her stage with the audience spread evenly throughout the room. The three performers move with great energy around, often confounding with their ability to leave through this door and pop out another. The high energy and optimistic feel, despite the often tragic display of humanity as Labrosse removes his onion skin layers, forge a deep and strong bond with the audience who grow closer and closer to the characters as the play moves forward.

Gerry Sont is a light Simon Labrosse, just the right amount of playfulness and gentle tragedy to keep us mesmerized by his fascinating character. His Simon replaces thought with energy in a kinetic tumble towards his impending doom as an unpalatable irrational truth surges toward him. One gets a strong sense of the collision course of the unemployed during a recession with the swelling inability to transform their fate. Cassady Maddox is Nathalie, the ‘Woman who plays all the women in Simon’s life.’ In a telling and sophisticated move, Fréchette writes her exposing her insides rather than the outside of her flesh in a narcissistic attempt at recognition of her agency. It’s a delightful twist that Maddox well exploits in an intelligent performance that manages to incorporate all Nathalie’s strange whimsy with her pulsing intelligence. Finally, Steve McGrath is the hapless Leo, all misery and poetry and doom, waiting Godot-like for everything to go blissfully bad. The performances and direction are held in place by a strong creative team headed up by Anna Jahjah as producer.

Seven Days in the Life of Simon Labrosse is another superb production for 2016 from the always reliably good Theatre Excentrique. The depth of humanity is palpable as the space warms the audience into this most disarming and delightful of plays. This is another wonderful night at the theatre for Sydney audiences. Don’t miss it.

Highly recommended.

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