IN a time when slick professionalism is the name of the game it’s worth remembering that at its base, theatre is about human beings.
In “Couples Don’t Talk,” Canberra playwright and social worker Judith Peterson has teamed up with Bathurst writer Vince Melton with the view to writing a thought-provoking set of vignettes about relationships, showing how each is thwarted by the failure to communicate fully.
With a percentage of ticket sales going to support the work of the organisation Menslink, there is a visible theme throughout the five plays of men being especially bad at communicating.
In contrast, the final play, written by Peterson herself, “The Chocolate Game,” is a joyous celebration of what happens when women get together behind closed doors with a few boxes of chocolates and even more bottles of wine to talk about life and love.
Directed by veteran Canberra theatre personality and owner of Smith’s, Domenic Mico, this enjoyable program, the sequel to an earlier show written by Melton, “Blokes Don’t Talk,” presented theatre close-up and personal, almost confrontingly so at times, as you see everything writ large in the small confines of Smith’s.
As well, Mico and the cast, for which he held public auditions, plainly chose to go the way of performing the little playlets in intimate naturalistic detail, with every word and every nuance reacted to full-on, in super-obvious facial and hand gestures. Indeed, at times I wished the decision had been to throw away lines, not to give us everything so close-up and personal.
Having said that, the “don’t talk” format is an effective way of giving us different slants on humanity’s failure to communicate, presented to a willing audience with heartfelt sincerity. It was plain that the theme and the specific instances in each play struck home to a mature-age audience.
While the three plays written by Peterson, “Regrets,” “A Moment,” and “The Chocolate Game,” all carried a touch of hopeful optimism that our personal relationships might bring happiness, Melton’s plays, “You are so Beautiful” and “Darling, I’m Sorry,” showed a slightly more sophisticated approach to the short play form, with sharply delineated male and female characters and a deft twist at the end of each. Having said that, Peterson certainly knows how to bring her characters to life and has a serious interest in pursuing questions of how we relate to each other that should bear fruit in the future.
At the end of the show, the producers joked that, having done blokes and couples, they might have to turn to the subject, “Children Don’t Talk.”
If they do – and it should be noted that they haven’t yet done “girls don’t talk” (for let us not kid ourselves that all that talk means genuine communication) – you can fairly bet that this phenomenon, which I like to call “Heartfelt Theatre” will continue to attract interest from audiences.