Theatre review: Parley!

by todadwithlove

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The meaning of the title is as ambiguous as its utterers’ anonymity. In Parley! Ant and Pea are lost at sea on a boat with a broken compass and no food. As hopes for a future fade in the salt-water air of desolation the duo annoy each other with failed attempts at getting along. Recrimination develops and, despite the proximity, there appears to be room for secrets that, even on unravelling, are desperately held through evasions.

Painful silences alternate with snatches of conciliation and delicate farce. Pea and Ant’s yearning and boredom and despair become increasingly more intense as mind and physical games play themselves out.

Harley Hefford’s staging of the piece by Elena Larkin and Rachael Basselink distils the superficial quality of the characters’ interactions by delineating outside and inner selves through the introduction of puppets fashioned in their likeness.

There are no doubt strong elements of Beckett’s Endgame and Waiting for Godot: clever paradoxes in deceptively imbecilic lines, chronic contemplation of death, slow burn of an excruciating relationship. We see the way in which wallowing in their own claustrophobia one can begin to lose memory and knowledge of the world around them.

Larkin and Basselink make a superb cast. Basselink’s Pea, while finding herself trapped in their predicament, insists on being dour in a state of limbo, refusing Ant’s overtures of intimacy, at the same time avoiding the reality of their fate. Larkin’s Ant, on the contrary, is more courageous and proactive, but for all her pragmatism she quickly reveals herself to be equally apprehensive.

With Georgia Symon’s dramaturgy, a surrealistic scene, where Pea and Ant in thrall to the vastness of the water and sound and weather, seemingly absorbed in a sense of wild bewilderment, is especially striking.

I have always observed one of the most delicious sounds in theatre to be silence among the audience. There are several instances in this hour-long production, however, when the stage is totally quiet while laughter rings out from those watching — at apparent absurdities.

Thing is, the play skewers us exquisitely; we are the real butt of the jokes: for, too often, we do not realise the inane things we engage in for a futile purpose.

Ultimately, this is an intelligent, poetic work that will prove timeless. Whatever the meaning of Parley! in this context it has the significance of every weighty word we know, like commitment, like separation.

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