There’s a six minute lockout at the start of Belvoir’s ‘Buried City’. I suggest you take advantage of it and leisurely finish your dinner or simply enjoy the emptiness of the foyer before going in, if you must, to see the show because once in there, the painstaking crossing of the stage by Perry Keyes before he picks up his guitar and starts singing, will make you feel your tolerance of the world is ebbing away.
Also be warned, there’s no interval, so pray you get a seat discreetly close to an exit or strap yourself in for 80 minutes of hearing yourself sigh and looking at your watch every two minutes in the hope that you have entered a time warp and the show will miraculously end soon.
Look- it’s not all bad. Some of the actors give it their best. It’s one of Russell Kiefel’s strongest performances and relatively new talent Meyne Wyatt also gives a fine turn out. But really, if you are looking for a night of entertainment, this is not it.
Let’s break it down. Writer Raimondo Cortese seems to specialise in intimate small cast pieces that are more conversational than plot derived and this means his stories are almost on the verge of going somewhere but they rarely do. It’s like waiting for the tag in the joke that never comes. His plays take you nowhere and very early on you realise the pointless message is tied up in the writing and the cast and director can try whatever they can to make the play feel like it’s building tension but the only journey it will take you on is tedium. And not in a Beckett way. It’s more like a ‘not-particularly-clever I-don’t-give-a-toss-and-why-am-I-trapped-in-a-seat-restricting-my-ability-to-stage-a-walk-out-and-reclaim-my-life’ kind of way. Does anyone remember his play ‘Holiday’ from Griffin a few years back. Duologue of sheer inane-ness. And I so want to like him but I just can’t help being bored witless by his work so I’m officially giving up trying. Cortese bores me. There. I’ve said it.
So, as result, the whole play suffers. Oooh..the world has rapidly changed. No-one cares anymore. Unions are dead. It’s all about money. We’re all alone. Who are we? What’s the point? Why can’t we sleep? Why can't we connect with each other anymore? There we go people. No need to see the show- I’ve just encapsulated it for you for free.
I know the cast had some input into the play and that’s obvious by the fact that they all retain their real names as the characters. Honestly, the show feels like a final year school piece, polished yet unoriginal. You’re not going to care about the characters and the play itself won’t take up valuable brain space shortly after you leave the theatre. For the most part, it’s a big fat ball of yawn.
Design wise you are confronted with the scaffolding of a stalled building site with all the characters stalled there as well in the mess of the site, as a metaphor for their lives, which becomes increasingly more broken as they play continues. And apart from drawn out conflict of stolen phones, ex-girlfriends, etc ultimately everyone will find a corner of the set and stay there. And they’re the lucky ones. At least they had easy access to the exit. I had to pay to stay and watch them stay too until two standard curtain calls later. Life is so unfair.
What is hammered home in this play is that an audience, we are so polite. Where are the groans from the audience to get on with it? Where’s the obvious stand, boo and exit. Can someone start that club? I’m happy to enrol in that support group. How on earth can we communicate to our theatre companies that the work they are putting on is giving theatre a bad name. There are so many people out there that believe theatre is tedious. Why give them a play that confirms that theory?
Shame on you Belvoir. You are capable of much better.