14 September 2009

The Rites of Evil

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2009
The Rites of Evil

Red Stitch Actors Theatre
4 September 2009
Red Stitch

In a recent interview, playwright (and actor) Travis Cotton said that mediocrity is the toughest challenge he faces in his work. Fortunately, there is nothing mediocre in his latest creation, The Rites of Evil, or in Red Stitch’s production of it.

Red Stitch thrive on presenting th contemporary playwrights that would usually miss be Australian stages. This lets us see incredible scripts from the UK, the USA and, in this case, Australia. The Rites of Evil is Travis Cotton fourth work and its complexity, dark absurdity and outright guts place it very comfortably in the company’s program.

If you’re not in your 30s or 40s, you could miss the subtleties of The Rites of Evil, but they add an extra dimension of enjoyment for those of us who remember why we avoid Nestle and Coke products and may even support Easter’s rites of evil theory. When Easter and Xavier are released from an undefined institution, they form a forced friendship that, for all its dysfunction, may be the only real thing in their lives – if their parole officer, Bronwyn, lets them meet.

Travis Cotton has created a world that lets us laugh, hope and hurt at the same time, but it’s the vision of Director Alex Menglet that brings the world to life. Menglet controls the elevated-mood and the Absurd aspects of the script, creating a balance of hope and menace that keeps the audience engaged in the emotion of the story and not distracted by the gorgeous grace notes of the Tamagotchi, the Nazi boots and the bizarre on-stage mix of old and older technology (exquisitely designed by Peter Mumford).

The contrast of Tim Potter’s, Johnny Carr’s and Erin Dewar’s performances is like mixing plaid with polka dots and paisley. The combination should overpower and frustrate our aesthetics but, as anyone with a patchwork quilt will testify, the combination creates a more intense and oddly satisfying effect. Each are clown-like in their approach but raw in their emotion, and their heightened performances magnifies the reality of their situation and increases impact of their downfall.

The Rites of Evil is Red Stitch’s Melbourne Fringe show, so it’s a terrific chance to get into the Fringe early and start the annual celebration of Melbourne’s independent theatre.

More 2009 Fringe reviews.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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