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Put your nads together for Fowler
Austin Castiglione, Renee Newman-Storen and Georgia King in Second Hands.

THEATRE

Second Hands

By Jeffrey Jay Fowler

4 stars


PICA Performance Space

REVIEW DAVID ZAMPATTI

I suggested to some people who had just seen Jeffrey Jay Fowler's ghoulish suburban comedy Second Hands that he could be the next David Williamson. They were horrified that I would consign such an adventurous young writer to the remainder bin of Australian theatre but they missed the point.

Fowler has the rare gift of writing funny, sharp dinner-table dialogue and the ability to ratchet it up and down the emotional scale at will. Only time will tell how he chooses to use his ability; what's indisputable is that he's got it in spades. But he's not ready to subside into remunerative respectability just yet, though.

In Second Hands, society values hands above all else. It's got the medical technology to click them on and off, and it's prepared to pay for them. Sri Lankan and Indian hands, Thai and Vietnamese hands. Even dicey Russian hands. The delicate, illicit hands of a nine-year-old are much more desirable than standard, ethically harvested 16-year-old hands whose former owners are provided with hooks to replace their missing appendages.

It's a well-conceived dystopia that allows Fowler to explore greed, vanity, the bounds of friendship and the possibility of love, and he does it with insight and clear vision. Renee Newman- Storen and Austin Castiglione are fabulous as a couple caught in the trap of desire and debt when a cheap pair of Sri Lankans cost six grand, and the talented and prolific Nick Maclaine and Georgia King as a couple who have the cash but not the courage to break the vicious cycle.

When the four of them are together, the dialogue fairly crackles with delicious venom. Some scenes between Maclaine and Holly Garvey, as his younger lover, lack some of the punch and sparkle of the others but that's an odious comparison.

The pace of the production suffers a little through scene changes even though they are necessary and well managed. One day, if he chooses, Fowler's work will have those expensive revolving sets that Williamson, Joanna Murray-Smith and their ilk get to overcome that little problem.