Slow burn at Blue Room
Confessions of a Pyromaniac.

THEATRE

Confessions of a Pyromaniac

By Matt Cooper

Three stars

Blue Room Theatre

Review: David Zampatti

While Matt Cooper's Confessions of a Pyromaniac, directed here by Shakara Walley, isn't in the first rank of Aboriginal theatre, it is undeniably and impressively liberating.

That's because while three of its characters, and the actors playing them, are Aboriginal, their ethnicity is a subtext, rather than the defining factor in either their personalities or the play's action.

There's a continuing conversation about the opportunities for Aboriginal actors to play other than Aboriginal characters; here Cooper inverts the argument by presenting characters who conform to none of the stereotypes, positive or negative, we've come to expect in the representation of indigenous people on stage.

Max (Cooper) is a writer of fantasy novels of the A Song of Ice and Fire variety who's had some success but has his struggles with writer's block, pills and bills. His fiancée, Sarah (Katya Shevtsov), is a white woman with a nine-to-five administrative job. They have a lodger, Dave (Calen Tassone), a young photography student.

It's a recognisable, if not exactly typical, modern, middle-class household, doing what modern middle-class households do.

Into this functional unit comes a disruptive element: Max's younger sister, Chris (Stephanie Somerville). She's a writer too, but also a Fury. Before long she's moved in, got Dave under her spell and her thumb, and proceeded to systematically break down the people around her and the relationships between them.

It's a good story well told, as far as it goes, but Cooper, early in his journey as a playwright, lacks the staying power to take it to a meaningful conclusion. When Chris, alone with her brother after Sarah and Dave have fled the toxic situation, asks him whether he's going to "light it up or burn it down", that should be the moment of crisis in the play, not its last line.

And that's a real shame. There's more than enough quality in Cooper's writing and the four strong performances, supported by a terrific driving score by the miraculous Joe Lui and Walley's able directorial debut, to keep us engaged while we find out how things pan out.

Confessions of a Pyromaniac ends on Saturday.

The West Australian

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