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Some Explicit Polaroids
AUTHOR: Mark Ravenhill
VENUE: St James Cavalier
DATES: 6, 7, 8; 13, 14, 15 October 2006
DIRECTOR: Chris Gatt
CAST: Marc Spiteri, Pia Zammit, Narcy Calamatta, Coryse Borg, VictorDebono, Keith Bennett
SUMMARY: Failed assassination attempts, New Age strippers, Technomusic, Russian go-go boys, corporate anarchists, aids cocktails,horny ghosts, beautiful bodies, abusive lovers, business execs on therampage, lots and lots of E… and more. Welcome to Happy Nation!
WHAT THE PRESS SAID:
Adrian Buckle and Conrad Buttigieg's company Unifaun is also becoming established as a successful mainstream company. This season they were responsible for two excellent productions, both at St James. Mark Ravenhill's play Some Explicit Polaroids, directed by Chris Gatt, was spiky fare, with Coryse Borg giving the performance of her life. - Showtime, 1 June 2007.
So what does Showtime think were the three outstanding local productions of the 2006/2007 season? In no particular order: Masquerade's The Goat, Unifaun's Some Explicit Polaroids and Curtain Call's Boston Marriage. Stellar performances of the season came from Nanette Brimmer, Monica Attard and Rachel Darmanin Demajo in Boston Marriage, Isabel Warrington in The Goat and a special mention for Coryse Borg, who was absolutely amazing in Some Explicit Polaroids. As for male actors, there was Manuel Cauchi (naturally) both in The Goat and Paul, Kevin Drake and Stefan Cachia Zammit in Paul and Mikhail Basmadjan in Company. - Showtime, 1 June 2007
Nothing Means Anything
HOW often have you wished you were a fly on the wall? Whenever I attend a play at St
James Cavalier’s ‘theatre in the round’ that is exactly how I feel. One becomes so intimately involved in the emotion of what is unfolding within a couple of feet of you that one would hardly be surprised were one to be drawn into the action. This is the feeling that directors and producers like Chris Gatt and Adrian Buckle wish us to experience when they put up plays like Some Explicit Polaroids.
Mark Ravenhill’s Some Explicit Polaroids deals with negativity, with anger and frustration; it delineates the inability to love and be loved. It deals with survival in an urban landscape; a struggle no less basic, savage and fierce than that which takes place on the savannahs of
Africa. It is, as a lady of my acquaintance described it during the interval, “a weird and wonderful play”, that never ceases to shock and surprise as its plotline gyrates as sinuously as go-go boy Victor’s young, muscled body.
The story swivels vaguely around the character of Nick played very convincingly and sensitively by Marc Spiteri, who has been in prison since 1984 who appears, like the ghost of Marley, in his wife’s apartment 10 years later. Pia Zammit’s Helen was beautifully played although I hated,
and was probably meant to hate, the hairstyle and the clothes. She convincingly portrayed being torn between her genuine wish to become an MP; an ambition fuelled by the poverty and violence she grew up surrounded by and the subversiveness that had made Nick and her, typical “angry, young persons” of the 1970s and 1980s. It becomes increasingly obvious as the play progresses that the “angry, young person” had become, by the time Nick hit the streets again, as
extinct as the dodo. Having been thrown out by a furious Helen who saw Nick as a threat to her ambition of being a squeaky-clean New Labour Councillor and aspiring MP, Nick, now on the streets, like a modern-day Don Quixote, rescues the hapless Nadia, a pole dancer, played magnificently by Coryse Borg, from yet another beating by her psychopathic lover and
is drawn into a strange triangle dominated by Tim, an aging “queen”, played electrifyingly by Victor Debono, who has just got himself a young, sexy Russian sex-slave called Victor, played with extraordinary conviction by Keith Bennett.
Nick is unable to identify with this dysfunctional trio and predictably falls in love with Nadia which, because of the way she is, is doomed from the start. In this miasma of human frailty, enters the almost Mephistophelian figure of Jonathan, who, like a diabolical puppeteer, imposes his coldblooded if not amoral code that enables him to face up to and eventually come to control the man who had stabbed him 10 years before who was none other than our ex-con Nick! Jonathan, played splendidly by Narcy Calamatta, is the epitome of capitalist smarminess and razor sharp opportunism, turning even a murder attempt on his own life to his own advantage!
We meet two Tims in this play; both splendidly and movingly played by Victor Debono. There is the Tim who is the archetype gay in a thin carapace of flamboyant clothes advertising, Sex,
Drugs and Rock and Roll in capital letters, and whose heart is as hard as a diamond; a cynical hedonist who buys people and sex but eschews Love completely because he, like many homosexuals, has been hurt and disillusioned once too often. Many are those who, unable to face life, throw themselves into a selfdestructive pursuit of pleasure till, like Tim, the endless futility of it all gets to them. Then we meet the sick and dying Tim; a man who has given up the febrile
artificiality of his former life and who wants to die because “nothing means anything”.
Some Explicit Polaroids is not a comfortable play to watch. As the young Russian ingénue snaps away, producing instant and disturbing Polaroid images of the unquiet people around him we realise that he is changing from a mindless body up for sale nurtured in the grey socialist ex-
USSR to a real person who is belatedly growing up in leaps and bounds and boy, does Keith Bennett’s performance sparkle! Fast, astringently pungent and at times unbelievably funny; breathtakingly graphic and occasionally lyrical and tender too; this is a play to be remembered and to make one think.
Splendidly cast, directed and produced, it will long remain, in my mind, a point of reference to attempt to unravel and maybe understand the cerebral conundrums and human complexities that make up the paradoxical world we live in.
-Kenneth Zammit Tabona, The Times of Malta, 21/10/06
Borg makes this pathetic creature a delight to watch and a source of most of the play’s humour, having the right amount of energy and verve. - Teodor Reljic, THIS WEEK, 15/10/06
Zammit’s performance is spot on and scary – we all know how mediocrity is easy to fall into. The most boring character turns out to be the most effective because it hits so close to home. - Teodor Reljic, THIS WEEK, 15/10/06
Some Explicit Polaroids is a play I found gripping and exciting - Dr Paul Xuereb, THE SUNDAY TIMES, 15/10/06
Helen is not a rewarding part but Pia Zammit brings out many psychological nuances that make it come to life. - Dr Paul Xuereb, THE SUNDAY TIMES, 15/10/06
The most striking performances are those of the hedonistic trio, all of whom will change during the course of what is not a long play. Victor Debono’s Tim is the best thing I have seen him do, both vocal delivery and body language plotting his decline from the arrogance of power over others and his utter ignoring of the illness that is eroding him inside. - Dr Paul Xuereb, THE SUNDAY TIMES, 15/10/06
His (Victor Debono) performance and the physically uninhibited performance of Keith Bennett allow Ravenhill’s aim to make this deathbed scene very moving. - Dr Paul Xuereb, THE SUNDAY TIMES, 15/10/06
Like Bennett, Coryse Borg in her micro-outfits and complete surrender to physicality of the moment is utterly convincing. - Dr Paul Xuereb, THE SUNDAY TIMES, 15/10/06
Like Debono and Bennett, she (Coryse Borg) has come up with an impressively strong performance that is all of a piece and develops convincingly. - Dr Paul Xuereb, THE SUNDAY TIMES, 15/10/06
pictures by Joseph A. Borg