Saturday, June 25, 2016

PIGMAN'S LAMENT



Written by and starring Raoul Craemer
Directed by Paulo Castro
The Street Theatre until July 3.

Review by Len Power 24 June 2016

Raoul Craemer’s ‘Pigman’s Lament’ at the Street Theatre is a fascinating, startling and entertaining theatrical experience.  Part autobiography, part fantasy, Craemer takes us on a journey through his mind and spits us out at the other end.

Don’t expect a linear story with a neat ending.  The elements that make up this piece are a bit like one of those Picasso paintings or an Alain Resnais movie.  You have to decide what it all means and maybe it doesn’t matter.  It’s the pure theatricality of this work that makes it so worthwhile and memorable.

Raoul Craemer, who grew up in Germany, India and England, uses his experiences of that background to weave a kaleidoscopic story around a Canberra playwright and stay-at-home dad in a smart Canberra studio apartment who seems to be undergoing some sort of personal crisis.  The ghost of his grandfather is a frightening influence as is his love of soccer, symbolised by a soccer ball covered with a pig’s face which seems to be mocking him.  The laundry basket full of white socks still to be folded and put away may signify issues with being a stay-at-home parent.  The medieval Indian weaver-poet, Kabir, played memorably by Craemer in a previous play, is also bound up in this as is the computer game, Minecraft, and maybe the key to the whole thing is a quote from the German poet, Rilke, about ‘a forest of contradictions’.

Craemer’s performance is intense, controlled, funny at times and always interesting.  We may have different personal experiences to him but, through his down-to-earth performance, we can identify with a lot of the personal anxieties displayed here.  His clever script has been enhanced by the imaginative direction by Paulo Castro who makes sure there’s not one moment that isn’t exciting to look at or listen to.

The set, designed by Christiane Nowak, creates an engaging atmospheric environment for the play.  A gantry of lights protruding diagonally into the acting space seems to tell us that we’re in a theatrical experience, not the real world, but maybe it’s a design statement in this modern Canberra apartment?  The lighting design by Gillian Schwab is imaginative and the original music by Lara Soulio and Sianna Lee and additional sound by Kimmo Vennonen are an essential and pleasing element of this clever production.

You will be challenged by this work but if you’re prepared to go along with it, you’ll find it very rewarding.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘Artcetera’ program from 9am on Saturdays.

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