Review: The Polite Gentleman/Home
Mark Storen in The Polite Gentleman. Picture: Adam Mitchell

The Polite Gentleman

Written and performed by Mark Storen


By the Broken Image Ensemble Blue Room

The Blue Room is enjoying a surge in popularity, with houses running about three-quarters of capacity this year.

That's fortuitous for theatre in Perth, because the 36 independent productions mounted in its two small spaces comprise the lion's share of locally produced professional theatre in 2012. It hasn't come at the expense of adventure and quality; at their boldest and best, Blue Room shows are as good as anything produced in this town.

The Polite Gentleman, Mark Storen's blues-inspired internal odyssey, is yarn spinning of a high order. Storen is a captivating figure on stage; rough-hewn but quietly spoken, with a mix of gentleness and threat that's both scary and engaging. He's a hoochie-coochie man, not to be messed with, and director Adam Mitchell wisely leaves him pretty much to his own devices (on a stylish, minimalist set by Fiona Bruce, elegantly lit by Chris Donnelly) to tell his wry, and often seriously funny, stories of his devils and all their guises, and the places they can be met.

It's the stuff of the blues, and the Delta blues, either performed live by Storen or embedded in Andrew Weir’s sound design, snake through the show. I would have liked more of it (and louder).

While the tension and bewilderment caused by someone going missing can make for powerful theatre, the inherent lack of resolution can be problematic. The Broken Image Ensemble's Home is a case in point. It's a carefully written piece, based on Maeterlinck's late 19th century play of the same name, which tells the story of a father (Josh Magee) and two of his daughters dealing with the inexplicable disappearance of a third daughter from their orchard in the South West.

The relationship between the girls, Beth (Caris Eves), Ellen (Holly Garvey) and their missing sister Sally is punctiliously drawn, and both actors give accurate and touching performances. Garvey, in particular, has some fine, poetic moments with passages from Robert Frost and Rainer Maria Rilke. Unfortunately, Magee is far too young to be the girls' father, and it’s fatal to the persuasiveness of his character. It's perhaps an inevitable compromise when young performers work together, but this would have been a much stronger piece with a more appropriately aged, actor in the role.

Home runs until September 15. The Polite Gentleman runs until September 22.

The West Australian

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