I should know by now not to book a play titled Conversation with Myself but hope springs eternal: the blurb sounded interesting and director Nelsen Moekena won a ‘Best Community Theatre Production’ Naledi award for Desperate Measures in 2005.
God, it was awful.
It was a complete Faustian hash of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde in which the performer, a middle-aged writer by the name of Steven Parker, battles with Ezekial the evil alter ego who possesses him after his father’s suicide. The overwrought head-holding, jerking, spasming and grimacing at the beginning was a bad sign and it only got worse. Not only did the actor (uncredited in the programme – a mercy I suppose) not change his affected, neurotic, agitated nasal tone at any point when switching between the evil Ezekial and the morally conflicted Mr Parker, the script went round and round and round and round and round the same point.
Let me give you a summary: (Unrelentingly anguished tone with no differentiation between characters) “Ah, I can’t stand it. Get out. Leave me alone!” “No, Mr P, you need me. Me and you are one. You cannot write without me. Let me take control of your soul.” “No! Get out, you are evil.” “Ah, Mr P, but you cannot write. It is me who gives your pen the power.” (Grab head. Scribble on paper. Pull hair. Clutch and rip at chest…) Repeat ad nauseum.
Intersperse with the odd kink, a reference to, oh, his father’s suicide perhaps? Or diabolical thoughts of rape or xenophobia, just a little teaser to let us think this might go somewhere else, lead us into dangerous territory to deliver some insight into the turmoil of today’s society. But no, back we go to the writing desk and the pen and paper and the head clasping and jerking and spasming and grimacing and the “get out’s” interspersed by the “no Mr P. Let me in Mr P”.
Not only was the entire text delivered at one unendingly agitated pitch with movement as monochromatic in its singular gesticular language, the use of space was so badly judged as to verge on the comical. There were a number of times we were watching an empty stage as our performer ranted on in the dark recesses of stage right or left. I very much doubt this was intentional.
Granted a script can spiral around a central point to rise or descend to a different destination, incorporating new information with each turn and so build suspense to a crescendo of revelation, but this one spun on one point and attempted to occasionally throw out a hook to capture some supposedly astounding plot twist, each time reeling in a rotted old boot instead of a flashing fish.
So disjointed did it all become, and so tiresome the torrid trajectory that I couldn’t care less whether Ezekial’s fiendish penmanship caused a divorcee to fuck herself to death with increasingly large phallic objects or led to a horde of fans to ecstatically slit their own throats at the final chapter, as long as it caused the death of this farcical performance that was throttling my desire to ever set foot in a theatre again lest I be subjected to any similar such torture in my all too short life.
There are only two performances left. I advise you not to go.
Remember, the Critter watches bad theater so you don’t have to.
— Steve Kretzmann