BWW REVIEW: Friendships, Fitting In And Fear Of Letting Go Play Out In TONSILS + TWEEZERS
Wednesday 17th January 2018, 7:30pm, KXT
A twisting tale of friendship, trauma and the need to move on plays out in the comically disturbing TONSILS + TWEEZERS. Will O'Mahony's play provokes memories, challenges behaviours and interrogates the psyche with a woven work of recollection and re-enactment.
Interspersed through a countdown to the moment where Lewis/ Tweezers (Hoa Xuande) poses Tonsils (Travis Jeffery) with a perplexing question "ever wanted to kill someone?" the origins of the high school friendship are unveiled through Tonsils' recollection of the past, re-enacted with the aid of a predominantly silent Tweezers. The two misfits, thrown together for a school project, rallied together against bullies like the Fountain Boys, let by Max (James Sweeny) but ten years later, in the lead up to their school reunion, Tweezers still harbours a resentment and judgement of the attention seeking competitive people he viewed as narcissists. Tidbits of information eventually form a picture of a young man disturbed by his past and unable to move on from a tragedy that changed the boys' world and sent Tweezers into a spiral of silence and solitary subsistence.
Patrick Howe has created a slick stage suitable for the surreal story that plays out on a flexible timeline. Polished black floors contrast against the rough rear wall which features a trio of screens which echoes the stories, from binary stars to mediations on pebbles and peaks of crown corners. Bench boxes hide props and glide along padded legs to allow repositioning for variety including adjusting proximity. Costuming is kept simple, with Tonsils and Tweezers mimicking each other whilst Max and Beth (Megan Wilding) maintain individuality in the casual clothing. Liam O'Keefe (Lighting Designer) illuminates the space with lighting that allows the performance to move between the memories with ease and shocks of light to punctuate moments.
Most of the work has a good pace, keeping the audience engaged as they try to decipher what is going on, realising that, bizarre question aside, there is something askew in Tonsils' presentation of events. The inclusion of Max's side story of preparing for an amateur production of Macbeth, whilst presented amusingly by Sweeny, is often revisited and eventually does seem to drag on unnecessarily after it is quickly established that he's a less than adequate performer rehearsing his lines. Wilding's take on Beth and the other minor characters that weave in and out the boys' life is amusing as she breaks the fourth wall to interact with those in the front row of the intimate traverse theatre. Her physicality and facial expressions are hilarious particularly when she deflects Max's advances during rehearsals and pulls faces at the recollections being shared. Jeffery is endearing as the narrator of the story, leading to an inner conflict when the audience learns that Tonsils abandoned his friend for the Fountain Boys who had bullied them as kids, failing to understand how much he meant to the fastidious Lewis. Xuande has the audience guessing as to Lewis' intentions and his stability, coming across as somewhat normal but ultimately disengaged and dysfunctional as he holds on to the past.
With moments of recognition for anyone that sat on the periphery as an adolescent it is easy to sympathise with Tonsils and Tweezers' isolation and share their disdain for the bullies of their youth. Whilst most audience members hopefully don't share Tweezer's fascination with weapons and revenge, TONSILS + TWEEZERS does pose the question of whether resentments are held and does it really do anything to still hold on to them years later. For those with the strength to admit they were the Fountain Boys of their youth, hopefully they will realise the effect their actions have had on others. In general terms, TONSILS AND TWEEZERS also serves as a message that hopefully bullying can be reduced for future generations.
An interesting new Australian work presented by a wonderful cast, TONSILS + TWEEZERS will have you intrigued at the mystery that unfolds and hopefully encourages people to be kinder to each other and themselves.
12 - 27th January 2018