Review: P.O.V. Dave – La Mama
La Mama’s P.O.V. Dave is essentially a film noir play about a retiring press photographer who gets more than he bargained for with his last assignment. It definitely shows that most of playwright/producer Noel Maloney’s background is in screenwriting as he takes on the kind of story and genre that is much more acquainted with the screen than with the stage.
Dave’s profession as a merchant of dirty secrets working for his heartless editor, Bronwyn, has finally driven away his beloved wife, Susan (both played brilliantly by Eleanor Howlett) and, now that one of his assignments has driven a young girl to suicide, this job could also destroy his relationship with his son, Jack (the talented young Jude Katsianis) if he should ever find out. He plans to get out after getting one last fat paycheque that will set him up until he finds a more respectable job. He just has to get a few compromising shots of a sleazy priest named Kevin (Gabriel Partingon), although it turns that he and his saccharine wife Kathryn (Annie Lumsden) have been playing this game for some time and have long known how to win.
All of this is depicted in a long series of flashbacks that Dave is experiencing in his dying moments on a train. As such, much of the story is told through narration delivered by Dave, who is both our dying man looking back on how he ended up here and our jaded film noir detective whose gloomy inner psyche the piece is delving into. This is what Maloney turns to whenever he wants to write in a Hitchcockian scene that doesn’t translate so well to the stage. Strangely though, it’s also where he puts many moments that probably would have worked more powerfully if they were played out in full. Even though occasionally it offers a special insight into Dave’s thoughts, it’s still a rather clunky storytelling device, as is the overused framing of the wretched man’s life flashing before his eyes as he faces an untimely death.
What makes it work much better than it probably should is the inspired performance of Keith Brockett as Dave. Brockett is certainly not the typical film noir anti-hero, and as far as dying wretched men go, he is certainly one of the more interesting and entertaining ones. Brockett has such a powerful stage presence and has so finely perfected his characterisations of short, bumbling, amusing yet complex characters that Dave’s overindulgent amounts of dialogue are still a joy and a fascination to listen to. The same goes for the rest of the cast, who populate this familiar narrative landscape with characters that feel wonderfully fresh and exciting. Dave’s family, including his fading father (Peter Stratford) are the true emotional backbone and moral centre of the story. They definitely feel like a family worth fighting for, and their characterisations are much fuller than those of most of their cinematic counterparts. The seedy editor, Bronwyn, whose scenes are all angry phone conversations with Dave, is the kind of boss character you would only hear and never see if this was a film. However, director Beng Oh more than makes do with having Howlett perform her lines with her back to the audience and a cigarette in her hand. Partington and Lumsden, as the creepy priest and his manipulative wife, are two very striking villains and the perfect foil to the naïve Dave and Susan.
The final theatrical touch that enlivens the story and compensates for the clichés is Christina Logan-Bell’s staging and Tom Backhaus’ sound design. Just like the lead performances, the bookending scenes on the train that show Dave’s gruesome death manage are dramatized as an incredibly immersive fusion of the realism of the cinema and the hyperrealism of the theatre, which is what Maloney seems to have been aiming for in his writing.
Written by Christian Tsoutsouvas