Bottomless

Bottomless
By Dan Lee. Fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne. 28 November – 14 December 2018

Bottomless is an intriguing piece that explores aspects of the contemporary underbelly of the tourist mecca that is Broome.  Superficially Broome is such a strange glistening place, however it has a much darker and more haunting heritage and history than is initially evident. 

This particular staging of writer Dan Lee’s deep and courageous work, riddled as the writing is with mysterious ambiguity, is frustratingly bland and wordy.  The emphasis of Director Ian Sinclair’s production is of literalism and realism.  Yet the script more than hints at a much more enigmatic ‘liminal reality’, of a psychic space of disconnect – a ‘bottoming out’.

Lee has captured something of the universal from the intimate, immediate and personal.  The pervading atmosphere is of the build up to the wet season.  Sadly the potential of what could be achieved with lighting design (Andy Turner) is barely even tapped into.  Surely performers and audience could be swathed in a sense of relentless inescapable humidity.  Also in being thinly applied lighting does not adequately support the simple yet clever set design (Romanie Harper) or help create a sense of place for the performers. 

In contrast, sound (Russell Goldsmith) underscores, infuses atmosphere and creates environment.

Bottomless, at the very least, is an observation of some of the most eccentric characters who find devious ways to get by in Broome.  But, in actual fact, it is much finer and more perceptive than is evident on first glance.  It is reminiscent of Daniel Keene’s very acute insightful writing about the disenfranchised.  Lee has perhaps a more delicate touch.  What Keene had though, through much of the development and showing of his work, was a simpatico director in Arriette Taylor.  And I would hazard a guess they had a more extensive and intensive rehearsal period where minutia could be explored and the illusive caught and developed and appropriately integrated.

I am also reminded of amazing teamwork of Angus Cerini and Susie Dee.

This production smacks of a work in progress that is fecund with unique unrealized potential.  Lee is obviously a poet but his text is not being given apt justice and the secrets of the work, much like the secrets of Broome from a fleeting visit, are inadequately explored and realized.  There is so much deep mystery and magic in the Kimberley that could be brought into the mise-en-scene.  And importantly some of the darker murky urges, agonies and despair of alcoholism need to be more fully explored and expressed.

A marvelous cast has been assembled who all bring vitality, energy and focus to their roles.  They are a delight to watch.  And most particularly Julie Forsyth and Alex Minglet bring out the wacky humour in the work.

However nowadays it seems, more often than not, rehearsal periods are too short to adequately serve our playwrights or actors and insightful dramaturgy is missing. Even our most experienced actors are limited in how much they can immerse themselves in the creative process if they only have several weeks to pull a production together.

I so hope more time and development can go into this probing, and potentially challenging piece, with a director who can create a safe liminal space that allows the darker and more profound aspects of the text to be explored, developed, embodied, honed and communicated.  Then the work will wow with its highs and lows being fully realized and experienced by the audience.

Overall Bottomless, even with all its untapped potential is a rewarding experience.  And importantly fortyfivedownstairs must be congratulated and supported for having the insight and determination to champion its development and nurture Dan Lee - an insightful astute talent.

Suzanne Sandow

Photographer: Sarah Walker

Credits

Director – Ian Sinclair

Design – Romanie Harper

Sound Design – Russell Goldsmith – with guitar by Tim Rogers

Lighting Design and Production Management – Andy Turner

Cast

Jack Charles, Mark Coles Smith, Jim Daly, Julie Forsyth, Margaret Harvey, Alex Minglet and Mark Wilson

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