|In Treats the only audience participation was inadvertent, when
one of the actors accidently hit my foot with a rolled-up carpet. As presented
by Guernica Theatre, Treats takes the conventional approach, not
allowing the characters to acknowledge the audience in any way. Now in
a small theatre, if the actors are up to the challenge, this can provide
quite a charge. It's like being the ghost at a seance. You hear all and
see all, but have no more substance yourself than a vampire's shadow. A
real trip for the dedicated voyeur, but in this case the cast failed to
Written by Christopher Hampton, Treats is a three-body problem. You know -- physics. When you have two bodies exerting gravitational forces on each other their motion is predictable, but when a third body is introduced the math becomes intractable, and there's no telling how they will behave.
As the play opens, Patrick (played by Ian Morton) and Ann (Patricia Tedford) are ensconced in her living room -- not married, but rapidly descending into a sort of domestic coma. The third body is Dave (Andrew Mathisen), Ann's ex-lover, a nasty and charming sleaze of a journalist, just returned from overseas. He's disinclined to accept such an abrupt end to their arrangement and breaks into Ann's house to have things out. The play whirls on from that point, with the relationships shifting to reflect the ongoing power struggle.
As written the play is interesting enough -- the problem lies with the performances, a definite momma-poppa-baby-bear package. Tedford is momma: too small. She seems a bit self-conscious, and lacks the assurance of the other actors; her character going through the entire play on a single emotional note. Conversely, Mathisen is too big, bouncing off the walls of the tiny space. If we were neighbors instead of spectators we'd be pounding on the fourth wall shouting, "Keep it down, willya! Hey!" Not that he gives a bad performance -- it's very precise, in fact -- but he's playing to the back of the theatre. And if we were in the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse, towards the rear this would be much appreciated. Unfortunately, I saw this show at the Vancouver Little Theatre, where the back row is two seats behind the front row.
Only Ian Morton was just right and, oddly enough, even projected an almost babyish quality. He seemed to know exactly where the limits were, and played the full range between them. It was a striking performance, particularly remarkable as so much of it called for him to be a mute, reactive entity, caught in the verbal crossfire of the other two characters.
The Little Theatre was easily the best venue at the Fringe. It's
seats are very comfortable, and there's only 50 of them, making it very
intimate, without any need to worry about sightlines to the stage. And
unlike most of the other venues, it really is a theatre, so it has the
benefit of a professional lighting setup, not just some jury-rigged affair.