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A Sign of the Times

NIDA Independent and The Follies Company presents A SIGN OF THE TIMES in The Parade Studio, at the NIDA PARADE THEATRES.

A SIGN OF THE TIMES is a monologue written and directed by S.L. Helper and performed by Scott Irwin. A Man, once a lecturer of literature, is now working on a road construction site, employed as the man with the Stop/Slow ‘lolly-pop’ sign. In the first half he tells us of the death of his son Brockie, from cancer, and the depressive ‘spin’ that he has had, which has resulted in his wife, Hilda, and daughter, Casey, leave him, to settle in Canberra. The Man gives ruminations on the existential questions, that we have recently shared in Stoppard’s ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, and soon, will again, with Samuel Beckett’s WAITING FOR GODOT.

After the interval, we discover that the climatic moment of the first half resulted in The Man’s death under the wheels of a huge truck, and is now in “Another Place” and “A Forest”. Now, ‘dead’, our Man,  continues on his ruminations of life, death, existence, and the death of his son from cancer, and the desertion of Hilda and Casey to Canberra, and the confession of a homo-erotic impasse with a best mate (!) , illuminating, perhaps, further, the desertion to Canberra by Hilda and Casey etc. etc. ( Good grief! This is the second work that I have met in the last week (THE GRIEF PARLOUR), trusting us to believe in an after-life! What is in the air of our times, then? What is this sign of the times?)

There is no set design, bar three standing black flats and some practical props – in fact, there is no designer attributed. The lighting by Sian James-Holland is sufficient, with haze effects – I guess for ethereal affect. The best part of this work is the complicated (but not well integrated – volume and timing-wise) sound design by Darrin Verhagen.

Mr Helper has, undoubtedly, laboured over this work as the writer and director. Mr Irwin gives a solid performance of the material. But A SIGN OF THE TIMES is, ultimately, a very sentimental, maudlin work with huge swathes of literary pretensions, including, quotes (sometimes extensive) from works by Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope and T.S. Eliot and a singing of the traditional folk song Greensleeves. I found it tedious and extremely indulgent – particularly, since it included a 15 minute interval.

Mr Helper quotes from the T.S.Eliot poem THE HOLLOW MEN and I couldn’t help but be amused by the ironic suitability of it as a critique of this work:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act

Between the conception
And the creation
between the emotion
And the response

* my capitalisation

Falls a shadow, indeed.

This work has no bang, rather, a tedious whimper.

I attended because of my very positive impression of Mr Helper’s work on his production of the American play, last year, SYNCOPATION.

Why, oh why has NIDA INDEPENDENT given this work the space and time for production? I recently attended a NIDA student production in this very space called ESTHER, written and directed by Michael McStay, a third year acting student, with student actors, that deserved the advantages of this opportunity. With all its weaknesses it stood head and shoulders over this work in potential.

NIDA INDEPENDENT keeps its record of poorly-curated work in tact: I KNOW THERE’S A LOT OF NOISE OUTSIDE BUT YOU HAVE TO CLOSE YOUR EYES – March, 2013; SET – a whodunit soap-opera – May, 2013 (I was unable to attend SHOPPING AND F***KING).

“Excellence and Innovation” as usual, under the NIDA INDEPENDENT banner.

Check it out for yourself – hopefully, contradict my response.