Mercury by Manuel Aston.The Jigsaw Company at Currong Contemporary Arts Theatre, Gorman House Arts Centre, and on tour. Directed by Lynette Wallis. Season: Wednesday May 8; Thursday to Saturday May 9 – 25, 1996. 8.15 pm.
The Jigsaw Company specialises in presenting short but telling plays about social issues. Mercury dramatises the production of an audience-participation TV-host open forum, in this case on the death of a young girl after taking Ecstasy at a dance party. Each member of the production team has their own public and private agenda. The play culminates in exposing the conflict between the roles of the TV host as parent and public figure. He sees himself as no more than a "winged messenger" who doesn't deserve to be shot down by his unscrupulous colleagues.
This is a clever script which, in the capable hands of a highly professional team, uncovers a deeper, more significant theme. Using taped footage and live camera, Manuel Aston has drawn upon his experience in television production to show the way the images we see are manipulated to twist our perception of events. In the end the moral dilemma in the characters' relationships is left unresolved; but the issues of the role of the owners of the media and misuse of technical devices in the hands of the TV editor will not go away. I suspect that not many of us really understand how shots of an interviewer taken after the interview are cut in to reflect on and alter the meaning of the interviewee's words. What is the effect of "pixillating" the image of the interviewee's face; or deciding not to do so? Computer "enhancing" of the front page photo of the alleged Port Arthur murderer has exposed one newspaper to criticism this week.
The performances of the highly versatile actors are spot on. They shift into and out of each scene with such precision that one is not aware of the slightest interruption in the dramatic flow. Characters of real depth are created in a moment - I was particularly impressed with Virginia Anderson's rendition of the dead girl's mother. The sense of the reality of a TV studio is very strong using the bare minimum of equipment and a technical director who never misses a beat.
The show is already on tour to day-time venues, and opens for its evening season this Wednesday, May 8. This is entertainment plus: an interplay of critical thoughts and feelings germaine to modern society. I advise you not to miss it.
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