Controlled Crying

The Actors Folio. Blackbox at The Bakehouse Theatre. 13th Oct 2012.

Melbourne playwright Ron Elisha, a practising GP for many years, is well placed to write a play that looks at the lifelong drama of raising children. In Controlled Crying he adds wit, humour and dramatic tension to the challenge that few newlyweds would be aware of until it happens to them. Elisha’s script should be required reading for first time parents... or they could learn a few lessons from The Actors Folio at the Bakehouse Theatre.

This production opens with the gentlest of scenes; a quiet bedroom; a young married couple asleep in their bed; a lullaby playing softly; everything is in the pink. Suddenly the sound of a crying baby in the room next door goes on, and on, echoing through the years as the unseen presence of the baby grows into childhood, turns thirteen, turns eighteen, becomes an adult and has her own baby. All the time her parents grow older. A bitter sweet journey into retirement and old age. Karma... what goes around comes around.

The director, Ellonye Keniry, does an admirable job in developing the core concepts of Elisha’s complex script. The pacing of the production is a little slow in places but the power of the second part of act two redeems any earlier drag.

Miranda Pike crafts a fine portrayal of Libby, the almost obsessive compulsive mother, who does everything by the book and spends much of her marriage angsting over the growing up of their only child. The final two scenes are particularly well developed by Miranda.

Graham Self is less successful with Oscar, the long suffering husband who moves from being an easy going male into a frustrated old man. But his character has less flexibility for emotional development, and with hindsight, I suspect the problem lies more with the writing than the actor.

The uncredited soundscape is particularly effective in transmitting the passing of the years with brief sound bites clearly identifying key events between New Year’s Eve 1987 through to the first years of the 21st century.

The uncredited bedroom set provides the one space connecting the, scene by scene, passing of the years but remains unchanged over the course of the action (twenty years). The set is a bit cluttered and doesn’t add much to developing the passing-of-time theme that is intrinsic to the production - except in one area. Time change is effectively handled by updating photo images on the wall above the bed and in act two, developing the array of postcards from the now grown Millie as she travels around the world.

As one of the characters says “Life is not a TV show”. Controlled Crying highlights the need for young married couples to find the joy in parenting if they wish to prevent negative Karma from biting them in the proverbial over the length of their marriage.
Martin Christmas

When: 13 to 27 Oct
Where: Bakehouse Theatre