One Night Echo
The Duck House
By Gita Bezard
REVIEW: DAVID ZAMPATTI
For students of Greek mythology (and, after a quick refresher course on Wikipedia, us mere mortals), the central conceit of The Duck House's stylish, brittle party piece is a delicious game of spot the nymphs and satyrs.
The party in question has been thrown by Theo (Will O'Mahoney), whose unrelenting narcissism gives his eponymous alter-identity away immediately. He has hired a girl named Echo (google "Echo, Greek mythology") to serve drinks.
The guests arrive; his diffident, intelligent mate Eddie (Brendan Ewing), the magnetic Celeste (Alissa Claessens) and a lithe, shadowy young man (Tyrone Robinson) with hair swept over like horns. She is Selene, goddess of the moon; they are her lovers Endymion, the astronomer, and Pan, the goat, the god of the wild. This is no safe place for either Echo the nymph or Echo the girl, and, as in the myth, it tears her apart.
Before the tragedy, though, writer Gita Bezard, director Kathryn Osborne and the Duck House gang have lots of fun playing with ancient myths and modern mores. O'Mahoney's Theo is an achingly funny dickhead, a party boy version of Ricky Gervais's David Brent, and Robinson's silent, sinuous Pan is sexy and sinister throughout. Best of all are Ewing and Claessens' moon-crossed lovers; he's as distinctive and charismatic an actor as we have, and she, billowing across the stage engulfing her paramours in tulle and satin, is quite something. Their lovemaking, snuggled together and ardently extolling the constellations, is wonderful.
Lea Klein's austere, convincing set gives director and cast plenty to work off, and the four- piece band (an unheard of luxury for a non-institutional local production in these straitened times), is beautifully led by trumpeter and composer Elliott Hughes
The weight of proceedings, and its structural issues, falls on Fran Middleton's Echo. The fun has to stop sometime, and when Echo's fragility and eagerness to please leave her defenceless and doomed, the mood of the piece changes so abruptly and completely that it struggles to take us with it. Middleton, who is an awkward but compelling actor, works hard and skilfully to bridge the gap, but it's tough going.
It's a problem, but even Shakespeare had his problem plays (and for much the same reason). It's no reason not to admire the panache of this talented and important local company, and this entertaining, ambitious production.