November 20th, 2007 at 10:56 pm (Live theatre)
This was a very depressing play. But it was also probably one of the most powerful productions I have seen this year.
The gist of it is that “Riflemind” was an incredibly popular rock band that broke up when John (Hugo Weaving) quit some years previously. They are now getting together for a few days to talk about the possibility of reforming for a tour.
All the performances were very strong, but I was particularly impressed by Susan Prior, who played John’s wife, Lynn. She was so tightly wound, so desperate for everything to work out, and her slide back into alcohol and drugs was both sad and inevitable. And the final scene, between her and John, was incredibly poignant.
There were times when the play seemed to be concentrating too much on being clever – all surface and no substance – but this was more than made up for by the moments of raw emotion. I don’t think I actually liked any of the characters. But at different times, I did feel sorry for all of them.
I found it interesting that in the end, the character you knew least well was the central one – John. In terms of the plot, everything relied on his decision, and yet you never really, completely saw inside his head. With all the others you absolutely knew what they wanted and what was driving them. And you did sort of know that with John, but even when everyone else was stripping bare their emotions, you felt that he was still holding something inside. I don’t mean that there was a vital piece of information about his motivations or anything – just that, unlike the others, he never completely let go. Not even in the scene towards the end when he was explaining to his brother what had happened with him (and, BTW, I really liked this scene – the sense that in spite of everything that had gone wrong between them, they still had a shared childhood, and a shared love of music.)
I saw this with Mark, as Michael is still overseas. He mentioned afterwards that he had read an article about the Sex Pistols (I think) which said that they were great when they were making music together, but a complete disaster the rest of the time. This seemed like the same sort of dynamic. When they were jamming – and presumably when on the stage – they were fine. So the challenge for the manager was to stop them from self-destructing before they got on the stage.