The Gloveman – Fighting the spirit of finitude. (Theatre Review)

The Gloveman

Actors Anonymous at Blood Moon Theatre

October 4 – 14. You can grab your tickets here. 

Images: Hayden Brotchie Photography

Central to the question of appearance contrasted with reality in C.J. Naylor’s The Gloveman is the character of Hugh (Chris Miller), the criminal whose world is remade regardless of his intention. In The Gloveman, C.J. Naylor works through the ideas of image via the specter of Gabe residing over the past and the present of the club, and the physical defect of Edith which impacts on her daily interactions with reality via meaning rather than ‘truth’. But truth is never fact. In The Gloveman we see the relationship between appearance (consensus) and reality (perception) as diametrically opposed. C.J Naylor here directly confronts the suppositions of Tennessee Williams’ oeuvre with a counter argument in favour of romanticism. Like Williams (and his inspiration Thornton Wilder) the puritan ethos and aesthetic is predicated first and foremost upon transmission through commitment to family, cultural background and contemporary observant cultural practice. The relationship Royce (Chris Argirousis) Col (Matt Blake) and Clive (Ben Dewstow) have is cultural and based on the invisible social contract of sport – which in itself is a game based on visible rules. But the invisible rules (mateship, cheery competition, drinking together) have their own counter ‘rules’ which include rigging the results for personal gain. While Royce is behaving reprehensively, he is equally the always already villain in that goodness arises out of countering him. Sport and corruption go together; always have, always will. It does not herald an end.

Where Tennessee Williams wants to counter optimism of the American dream with a depressed horror of ‘reality,’ C.J. Naylor calls forth the natural rhythms of life. The emotional truth of the play is the truth of dream and fantasy, of memory, longing and hope – the truth of poetry not verisimilitude. Fantasy becomes a vehicle to affect reality, not escape it. In this way C.J. Naylor embodies a Deleuzian aspect over that which has classified Williams as  a Puritan: The human need for the warmth of another person and the Puritan horror of the physical. In contrast to such fatalisms, C.J. Naylor suggests that what matters is eternity, or to be more specific, the temporal atemporality that has received the name ‘event.’ The great an unique ‘throw of the dice’ on which life wagers both its chance occurrence and its eternal return. For Hugh, the only salvation for his actions born of circumstance are the chance occurrence he shares with Edith. For Edith, salvation lies in her chance encounter with Hugh. In this they each find the integral affirmation of the improbable and do so ascetically, that is without a negation of any kind. They each trust, involuntarily, in becomings. This connection between them is forged from the randomness of The Event. For Edith, who dreams and hopes, it may be part of a destiny, but for Hugh, it is a complete surprise that changes his life.

This then embodies the lyricism of the text which argues to fight the spirit of finitude. Fight the false innocence, the morality of defeat and resignation implicit in the word ‘finitude’ and tiresome ‘modest’ proclamations about the finite destiny of the human creature; and in one affirmative prescription: trust only the in the infinite. Thought is nothing more than a burning to a chaotic infinity, to the ‘Chaosmos.’ (as Deluze might say) Let thought be obedient to the infinity upon which it depends, and let it concede nothing to the abhorrent spirit of finitude. In the one life we have been granted, let us live as the Ancients used to say, as ‘immortals.’ Sporting heroes if you like. Framed forever on the wall of a club filled with passionate supporters.

Michael Block directs this production of The Gloveman with an eye on the creative process rather than interpretation for text. Actors, encouraged to move before the memorize, are brought to their characters via technique and repetition. With a text as dense as The Gloveman it made it a little hard to follow the subtleties and depth of the work, but equally made for interesting performances that added to the aesthetic appreciation. In some ways, there is a measure of space between the performances and the text that requires some concentrating to bridge. However, the audience is rewarded with a strong sense of cohesion that lives in between the words by the end. And that translates to a deep sense of warmth and connection. We feel close to these characters, particularly Edith and Gabe (played by Brinley Meyer and Janine Penfold) who respond powerfully to the directing style.

The Gloveman is an interesting work by C.J. Naylor that embodies the spirit of what we are looking for when we are looking at sport. It’s a large play, filled with well developed, interesting characters who embody what it is to live and most importantly, what it is to be human.