Saturday, April 25, 2009

Never Enough Review

Last year’s Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen of Strict Machine fame return to the Festival this year with Never Enough. Where Strict Machine dealt with women in the workplace, Never Enough tackles that other life-essential, sexual desire. So they’ve also brought a boy along with them in the form of Marc Graham.

What’s changed from last year is a much richer coherent narrative, a sprinkling of comedy and a more slimming set, all of which have improved on what was already an impressive show. What hasn’t changed though is the bizarre sexual stereotypes. Lizzi and Rebecca are almost caricatures of women; obsessed with men, food and racked with insecurities, both scheming like hell against the other. Will doesn’t fair any better, being self-deceptive to the point of vacuity.

The light-heartedness and humour of the piece goes along way to justifying these moments, stereotypes being the bread and butter of audience recognition and knowing laughs, but it feels unsatisfying to watch such honest expression of emotion in the actor’s physical movements that doesn’t translate into believable characters.

It isn’t until the last third of the play, when Lizzi starts boiling her proverbial bunnies, that the play dares to go deeper into the psychological oddities and needs of its characters. From here to the end the level of intrigue and ambiguity increases tenfold, we get some thought-provoking ideas on women who suffer abuse and are left to our own conclusions about whether or not the characters have finally found enough together. Which is a piece of luck because they take it to the limit in terms of expecting the audience to come with them for the final push.

Where it’s much more difficult to find fault with Never Enough is in the moments of physical expression. All three of the cast have a naturalness to their movement that, while not professionally trained, is technically precise and incredibly emotive. The way they flow, twist and move totally embodies their character. Every step is of significance, each turn aims to develop the piece in some way. It is a device that shows us how the characters are feeling with such clarity as to render the spoken sections needless. Stand-out moments would have to be the selection of perfect women Will ponders (ending in the line, ‘No that’s not it’) and the painting of Lizzi’s body back and blue as she expresses her desire to be touched, even if it means being beaten and subdued.

The character niggles and extensive dialogue sections are distracting, but that doesn’t deter from the fact that Never Enough’s strengths, the physical skills of Greenland, Goalen and Graham, their energy and total commitment, its sense of humour and final willingness to have a closer look at its characters, eclipse its weaknesses.

P.S. I know it’s cruel and unnecessary to mention it, but at one point one of the actors exited the stage and smacked their head into one of the pictures, which proceeded to swing about wildly for a few minutes. I only mention it because I loved the moment. Slapstick is my other favourite form of physical theatre, y’see.

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