October 2010

Check in, check out

The desk clerk of a rundown city hotel busies himself with a desultory dusting and arranging of his foyer as the MTC audience is still moving into their seats at the Sumner Theatre. Lightning fuses the hotel’s power and a gale blows an unwilling guest through the revolving door. The conversation that ensues between guest and clerk is a manic and hilarious exchange fluctuating between Fawlty Towers,Waiting For Godot and Jean Anouilh.
And so were launched into the immensely enjoyable and satisfying Life Without Me, the latest creation of prolific Melbourne writer Daniel Keene. Enclosed by one of the most realistic and authentic sets seen on a Melbourne stage, the play uses a hotel foyer as a metaphor for life – we exist in a constant transitory state between checking in or checking out.
The location enables the bringing together of a diverse ensemble of strangers whose common denominator is that they are “lost” in one or many connotations of this simple word. They are uncertain about where they are or where they are going, or even where they want to be. It is thought-provoking fare that, rather than being ponderously deep and meaningful, is laced with sparkling and brittle dialogue with generous helpings of often zany humour.
Robert Menzies stars as the manic hotel clerk straight out of the Basil Fawlty school of hospitality misfits. His bizarre antics find a superb foil in Greg Stone as one of several bewildered blow-ins. They are matched by Brian Lipson’s sad linen salesman and Kerry Walker’s dippy but perceptive hotel owner. Deirdre Rubenstein provides some wistful romance while Kristina Brew and Benedict Hardie make impressive MTC debuts as the confused young lovers.
Apart from the snores emanating from the couple in Row G, the audience thoroughly enjoyed a sparkling production that maintains its grip for most of the way and provides an evening of immense pleasure and contemplation.

A super Snowman

Following on from our previous ridiculing of his publisher’s claim that Jo Nesbo is “the new Steig Larsson” we can now confirm the unfairness of this book cover statement. Nesbo’s newest offering, Snowman, is streets ahead of anything Larsson achieved in his over-hyped Millenium trilogy.
Like the previous Nesbo books, Snowman is built around the alcoholic, melancolic Harry Hole – a character far more complex and far more believable than any of Larsson’s cardboard caricatures. And in his two main women protagonists (and the love-sex involving them) we are given far deeper portrayals than the over-drawn, over-blown Liz Solander of the Millenium books.
Nesbo is up there with Mankell and the very best of the moody Scandinavian crime writers. Do yourself a favour and read his finely written novel with its myriad twists and turns rather than the pap of the publicity drenched Larsson.