Puntilla/Matti - Monday 25th September
JAMES: He asked if there are any reviewers in the show tonight.
ELENI: I like to think we kept a low profile.
J: Are we reviewers? Is it fair that we’re at a preview?
E: All’s fair at The Fringe, I’d say. I like to think of September in Sydney as a stroll through a gallery of found objects, poems and phone numbers scrawled onto bar napkins and coasters.
J: I’m sorry, but that’s way too sentimental for a night of post-Brechtian theatre. Where even are we, Eleni?
E: Fair call. The signage suggests that we’re at the Kings Cross Theatre (KXT), kicking off the evening with a steak and a chat with a friend, a writer. We swap Sydney Fringe stories as a sort of warmup. It feels like The Beep Test.
J: You used the Beep Test as a warm-up? Our writer friend was talking, wasn’t he?
E: Writer friend never seems to realise when he’s speaking poetically. “I had a nervous breakdown at the Sydney Teapot Show”, he muses semi-intelligibly. I laugh for a good 30 seconds. I will later exhume this comment and present it back to him, and he and James will eventually laugh, too. We take a beer upstairs and James suggests we sit opposite one another in the traverse space, to get different perspectives.
J: Eleni, what is this?
E; A boxing ring, harshly illuminated, a crackly and inaudible voice through a megaphone, rescinded by sweet and uplifting moments of eye contact and storytelling from a delicate, careful persona, and then struck back with an open dressing gown, bare flesh and catheter tubes dangling.
J: Those catheters. Every time they dragged on the floor, I imagined them being yanked out of my urethra.
J: I’m struggling to describe what exactly we saw. It was a preview, so it was rough, but then it was a conversation, so it was fluid and accommodating — Tobias and Grace were really inclusive of us, the audience, so it wasn’t really a problem that things were —
E: Unruly? Yeah, in many ways I found that inconsistency to be the most liberating part of the act of watching it all, in the sense that there’s an expectation that even a preview performance has your back, or at least knows where you’ll end up. But this was delightfully scratchy and taped together.
J: They — MKA Theatre and Dopplegangster — they cut pieces out of an old Brecht play.
E: Yeah. Our writer friend explained: Puntilla has a servant and friend named Matti. He gets drunk and adoring towards Matti. Matti feels ambivalent but tries to take the good as it comes. But Matti knows what’s coming next. Puntilla will sober up and rail against it all, including Matti.
J: So it’s a conversation between Tobias-as-Puntilla and Grace-as-Matti! A master/servant relationship, like what we see often in theatre history. Tonight Matti is Puntilla’s uber driver, has been for two weeks now. Can you actually keep a person employed by never closing the ride?
E: *checks Google*
J: I loved sitting across from the audience in the traverse seating of the KXT. I think a show like this needs a bit of audience solidarity, checking in with one another, just to make sure that we’re all in this together. Your face was a great barometer.
E: In this show, there may as well have been a mirror on the opposite seating bank. I found myself syncing up with your reactions — watching you watching me — it was like checking my own reflection.
J: Sometimes I wanted to perform for you, actually. Other times I wanted to see you enjoy the show, as if I had some responsibility if you were bored.
E: I oscillated wildly between celebration of a liberation from all form and purpose, and resentment of the fact that I don’t know where this train stops, where chaos ends and control begins. It was at once manicured and formless, anarchic and thrilling.
J: I’m not sure why, but at the end I really couldn’t stop thinking about going to Gelato Messina afterwards. For the debrief.
E: That idea made a lot of sense. I wondered if it crept in when you heard the line: “He gets paid $38 an hour but hasn’t had time to stop and scream in 30 years” - perhaps due to the rhyme we all scream for ice cream, or perhaps something more deep-seated?
J: I think it was because they were using microphones. Is there an ice cream equivalent word for phallic? Something gelatic-shaped? The gelatic shape got me all hot and bothered.
E: Our writer friend ordering us to “stop and look at this building, isn’t it hideous?” was somehow deeply amusing and cheeky —
J: —but it didn’t feel wrong or ugly or out of place once he said it/
E: /because we had mouths full of ice cream/
J: /that must have been it/
E: The sweetness mixing with the imposition of this concrete box, a stone’s throw from the Coke sign.
[Pounce on tomorrow for some theatre sports and sports theatre (?) with Genevieve]
Written by Eleni Schumacher and James Dalton