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Tell Them That I Am Young And Beautiful or the Kathryn Hunter coconut

Did Electricity by Barefaced Theatre electrify?

Electricity_poster_ammended3 The last time I went to a site specific theatre production, I think I described it as two hours of my life I would never get back. That had little to do with the location, although a dull and nondescript office is not an encouraging point to start but more to do with the quality of the writing and acting.

Electricity is written by Murray Gold who is a seasoned writer for both stage and radio (David Tennant has 'appeared' in one of his radio plays, little fact-ette there for DT fans) so the writing was definitely a step up from my previous experience. And so was the acting, almost uniformly good.

But what of the setting? Well to put it in context, the play revolves around three men: Leo (Mansel David), Jakey (Anthony Dunn) and his son Bizzy (Zachariah Fletcher) who are decorating a room in Katherine's flat (Berri George). It's going to be a 'quiet room' with fountains and a statue of Hindu elephant god Ganesh.

It's performed in an old office space on a semi residential street in Victoria, accessed via a plain door and narrow stairs. There are wires hanging out of the ceiling and protective sheeting over the floors and surfaces as well as paint tins and decorating paraphernalia.

The quiet room is taking shape, marked out by freshly painted orange walls (you can still smell the paint) and stencils taped to the wall. You certainly feel like you are sitting in the middle of decorating project.(And unlike other site specific performances I've been to, there is bar at the interval.)

There are two interwoven threads to the story. Leo is having problems getting a decent days work out of Jakey and Bizzy who seems to suffer from something akin to autism. The job is already running way over schedule not helped by Katherine's restrictions on when they can turn the power and water off.

Meanwhile Katherine, we discover when Bizzy reads her diary, is grieving for her recently deceased mother and as a result of that grief has shut City-worker boyfriend Michael (Darren Godbold) out of her life.

There are several nice undercurrents of tension: frustration at the pace of work, Michael pinning his hopes on the completion of the room restoring his relationship with Katherine and the danger of  a live electricity cable hanging out the wall which Bizzy seems obsessed with.

Some of the character development seems extraneous for example Leo is having trouble sleeping because of nightmares and some of the dialogue seems slightly out of place. For example some of what Katherine says just seems a little too cookie compared to other dialogue which is quite switched on.

There is some good banter between the decorators and a great little bit when Katherine reveals some home truths. Bizzy says little to nothing to start with but you just know there is stuff waiting to burst out.

It's not a play that has a great deal of depth, it's very of the moment, amusing and engaging for the two hour running time (including interval) and that is fine. It was a good use of the space and nice to break out of a traditional theatre setting. This is a play that would also work on stage but I think it benefits from the novelty factor in this case.

I'm going to give it three and a half stars.

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