Review / Strong contrasts in comic nightmare

theatre
“Bartleby”
By Julian Hobba after Herman Melville
Directed by Julian Hobba
At The Street Theatre, until August 3

JULIAN Hobba’s version of “Bartleby” is a contemporary comic nightmare featuring humanity’s struggle to get a look-in within the professional/career world’s semantic double-speak and the business of pressure goals.

Actors Max Cullen, left, and Dene Kermond in "Bartleby: He’d prefer not", at The Street Theatre. Photo by David Flannery

Actors Max Cullen, left, and Dene Kermond in “Bartleby: He’d prefer not”, at The Street Theatre. Photo by David Flannery

It will be familiar to most people in the public service or the professions. The play challenges ambitions and obsessions through the referencing of Melville’s “Moby Dick”.

The strength of the production is in the struggle of highly contrasting and differentiated characters to establish their mark.

Max Cullen’s “Old Lawyer” at first presents as a bumbling old man on the verge of dementia only to emerge as a grounded and insightful figure able to still feel empathy and display wisdom beyond the confines of the reductionist office.

Kermond’s “Young Lawyer” is brash and committed to all the illusory goals so consistent with young ambition. His vocal and physical dexterity is in high contrast to the seemingly rambling distractions of the older man. Ben Crowley’s “Bartleby” is filled with ambiguous anxiety that reverberates with passive violence; powerful enough to split the Lawyers and destroy the world around him.

The play is a critical observation of the career and business world with all its unseen monsters and obsessions leaving it vulnerable to human impulses.

The slow rhythm may irritate some audiences while inviting others to work with the actors in the re-interpretation of our lives.

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