Colder (Red Stitch) – theatre review

Can lightning strike twice? Well, “yes” according to playwright Lachlan Philpott whose work was inspired by real life events. Colder concerns the disappearance of David in Disneyland at age seven and then again in a different place 26 years later. On the first occasion, he reappears after seven frantic hours. The second time, he does not. The gaping wound he leaves behind cannot heal.

Photo credit: Teresa Noble Photography

There’s no neat explanation for what happened; no clues to follow that will lead to the answer. One moment David was there and the next he wasn’t. Nor do we know what happened to him in the seven hours he was lost in the amusement park. The production provides an insight into the person that David was, how he led his life as an adult and even his thought process as a child. Moreover, it also takes the perspective of his distraught mother, his gay lover and his female friend.

The intensity of feeling, the sense of pain, loss, abandonment and grief are apparent throughout. The narrative jumps around continually, with scenes crossing one another (so concentration is mandatory) as we build a picture of a young lad discovering his sexuality and an adult letting people in only on his terms.

The first act had me intrigued. I longed to learn more, hoping the pay-off would come after interval. It didn’t. Although we gained some snippets of information, these weren’t enough to make a difference.By curtain call, I was frustrated.

The ground covered could have been dealt with in a single act, rather than being stretched out to two hours (including a break). And I felt the way it played out the material appeared too clever by half.

The performances were solid and I would particularly single out Ben Pfeiffer as David’s partner Ed, whose portrayal was poignant. The six-strong cast also includes Marissa Bennett as seven-year-old David’s mother; Caroline Lee as David’s mum at age 59; and Charles Purcell as the adult David. Brigid Gallacher and James Wardlaw fill multiple roles.

Photo credit: Teresa Noble Photography

I thought the staging and lighting (the brainchild of Bethany Fellows and Bronwyn Pringle) were indicative of Red Stitch’s high standards, making fine use of limited space. The action takes place on 50 shiny boards on both a horizontal and vertical plane, with lighting from the side and behind the stage. It smacks of creativity and innovation.

Pity then that the playwright didn’t adhere to the less-is-more principle. In this case, too much repetition was a turn off. Directed by Alyson Campbell, Colder is playing at Red Stitch Theatre until 8 April 2018.

Alex First

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