By Eric Scott
Pictured: Emily Burton and Jackson McGovern
Naked and Screaming
By Mark Rogers
Directed by Sanja Simić
La Boite Theatre Company
Season: February 6-27. Duration: 85 minutes without interval. Bookings: qtix.com.au
What a great welcome back to La Boite live theatre: a world premiere from award winning writer Mark Rogers (2019 Griffin Award, 2019 Patrick White Playwrights Award) and starring two top class actors Emily Burton and Jackson McGovern.
Naked and Screaming is an 85 minute journey through the psyche of a young couple and their first born that grips at every turn and presents two characters that in turn earn enmity or sympathy.
What starts as a laugh a minute comedy slowly transforms into darkness and despair. It is a play that will resonate on so many levels with so many different people. It is performed in the round which was a perfect setting for the action and props are minimal but do show the disorder a new baby injects into its parents’ home. These new parents Emily and Simon start by taking the audience on an hilarious romp from labour pains to the delight of taking baby Dylan home. But tucked away in the hilarity are hints of character clashes to come, which are very subtly planted by Mark Rogers and cleverly revealed by director Sanja Simić.
Once home the couple discover they have one of those babies that never seem to tire of crying and presents problems well known to many a real-life mum.
With Simon in LA for work, the sleep-deprived Emily is left alone to care for baby Dylan, and so begins the slow descent into purgatory that will alter everyone’s lives.
A two-hander is a tough gig for a writer or an actor. Other characters are introduced via dialogue and here Mark Rogers was superb. I could picture the mother-in-law and all those alleged friends who were too busy to help poor Emily. Even baby Dylan who was never there in the flesh was always visible in the mind.
As they settle into home life the couple slowly change from the loving couple who mindlessly adore the baby to become antagonists, unknowing and unwary; each trying to “help” the other as they break promises, make unilateral decisions and throw up protective shells. When these protective walls come down, all hell breaks loose.
As Emily, the new mum, Emily Burton is stunning. She straddles all the moods, loves and fears of the sleep deprived mother, particularly during a long solo run when Simon is away. Her performance was simply riveting. She switched from comedy to drama quickly and convincingly to create a truly real character. I was mesmerised by her performance.
But you can’t create those moments without a foil and Jackson McGovern provided that with a vengeance. His vacillation, his gentle accusations belied the depth of his fears, feelings and subservience to his mother. McGovern created a many-faceted character with ease. Together these actors created a formidable team that won the hearts of the audience in many different ways. I can’t recommend the production too highly.
In the end it is a matter of whose story you believe. Is Simon, as in Emily’s eyes, the manipulative mother’s by too easily influenced or is Emily the dangerous psychotic depressive Simon sees. It’s matter of choice for the audience.
Personally I chose Emily.