Review / Online play an ’emotional rollercoaster’

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Craig Alexander as The Critic. Photo: Creswick Collective

Theatre / “St Nicholas” by Conor McPherson, directed by Shelly Higgs, performed by Craig Alexander, music created and performed by Den Hanrahan. Online at thestreet.org.au, until June 7. Reviewed by JOE WOODWARD.

A THEATRE critic sucking the lifeblood from artists who put their lives on the line through their own performance!

A vampire with needs justified through a total lack of personal introspection; feeding off the efforts of others who work in that strange privileged edifice of the theatre! Such is the thematic grounding of “St Nicholas.”

The Street Theatre has created a hybrid performance between stage and screen that holds and compels attention. This is new territory for theatre and “St Nicholas” proved to be a great vehicle for such exploration. Use of music and cameras with live editing provided a journey through the distorted setting of a mindset in a liminal space between ego and dream.

Craig Alexander mostly sustained this distorted reality in a most admirable performance sustaining tension and a sense of menace. He never allowed us to fully grasp the total meaning of his utterances and always kept us waiting and hanging on for what might be up next. This could only be achieved by a consummate actor. His hold on McPherson’s rambling script meant he was painting pictures with his voice and face for the duration of the performance.

As an example of contemporary surrealist theatre, “St Nicholas” is a decent starting point. The language goes straight to emotional reactions rather than logical sequences.

The Critic expresses his own self-loathing. Photo: Creswick Collective

The Critic expresses his own self-loathing while experiencing the highs of lust and venturing into his decadent fantasies. In an age of internet porn and social media where small minds can anonymously shout out obscenities from the darkness, the Critic can enjoy the personal interaction with real artists and people who try to create and be alive while secretly savouring the urge to destroy.

All because that is what he IS! The justification for this duality of personality is that he feels he is part of a preordained purpose; just like the vampire.

“St Nicholas” is a play that opens up dreams to personal nightmares. It leaves the viewer in an awkward place of bewilderment. The distortions of real motivations and inner desires with the physical imagery of vampirism stamp the work with popular myths. It might have been better if it hadn’t tried to explain itself towards the end of the text. The playwright’s youth at the time of writing might have contributed to this. However there is enough detail in the storytelling and emotional rollercoaster to fully engage and challenge the smug social constructions that mask our everyday reality.

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