Red Phoenix Theatre. The Bakehouse Theatre. 16 Aug 2018
Mystery, wonder, and excited questioning is heart and soul of real science and science fiction, based on real science.
Science fiction literary great Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth is a tremendously rich text. Bixby marries great questions of scientific inquiry and life through a series of characters representing every science discipline, allowing Bixby to explore some of the great ‘what if’ questions.
A cabal of professorial colleagues (Andrew Horwood, Lindsay Dunn, Lyn Wilson, Alicia Zorkovic, Brendan Cooney, Eliza Bampton) arrive at John Oldman’s (Fahad Farooque) home unexpectedly, to farewell him with good cheer and love. He’s quizzed, why go? Why now? What next?
Oldman’s collection of artefacts and art, pored over by his friends aren’t exactly run of the mill stuff for such a young man. They prompt more questions.
This tussled questioning brings Oldman to the point of seeming to unveil the truth about himself and his motives. It’s not what one expects. A 14,000 year old man is before them? Really? Then a crucial element is thrown by Oldman, informing the extraordinary tale and intellectual, emotional roller coaster to follow. He suggests “think of it as science fiction.”
Robert Kimber’s direction focuses sharply on modulating the ever shifting tone of the work in such a way tension between believing Oldman’s words as truth, or simply an intriguing intellectual construct is constant. It brings consternation, rejection, profound upset, and moral fear as certainties of science and history are roughly shaken up. Kimber recognises the darkness at the heart of human endeavour, to know, to be sure, to be safe Bixby is addressing. Oldman threatens safety, and is taken to task.
The great challenge comes not from the many expressions of emotive, savage and intellectual consternation of his gathered friends but the shambolic, loud intrusion of a much aged grand lector Will Gruber (Brant Eustice). Gruber poses challenges of character and humanity to Oldman that are like sharp edged, mortal barbs.
The great beauty of Bixby’s writing, given great life in this production and casting, is the tussle of dealing with what is unknown and being able to stay with it - not run from it. In performance, Fahad Farooque masterfully bears the full weight of responsibility for the exquisite intellectual and emotional balancing act at the work’s core. Brant Eustice is a magnificent counter to Farooque’s performance. All the doubt, anger, and fiery minded illumination of what is and what's not, flares out of Gruber with tremendous righteousness.
Richard Parkhill’s lighting design is subtle and subliminally suggestive in stone tones for both interior and exterior settings, providing the perfect atmosphere over the two acts of the work.
When: 16 to 25 Aug
Where: Holden Street Theatres, The Studio
Bookings: holdenstreettheatres.com.au or 8225 8888