Confused, tormented and disappointed are the feelings that one is left with after watching Stained.
Stained is an original piece written and directed by student Taliah Horner. It contains themes and metaphors derived from political society. The population of this post-capitalist purgatory are nameless, genderless archetypal characters. These characters are Mr Stains (Eduardo Fahey), the Unemployed (Rob Merriam), the Secretary (Tom Hindle), the Fisher (Emily Knutsson), the Landowner (Erin Bushe), and the Inspector (Will Peppercorn).
It must be appreciated that the play is original student writing. Horner has done a fine job creating characters of archetypes of a capitalist society. However, the play has derivative overtones of a George Orwell book. Considering that this kind of commentary on the world we live in is slightly overplayed, the play lacks freshness — unfortunately, the play’s wit alone doesn’t remedy this. Despite the play’s description as “an absurdist comedy”, it is comes across more as an absurd play filled with infantile jokes.
The script is not the only shortcoming. The performance of Mr Stains (Eduardo Fahey) does not not succeed comedically in its shouted lines and exaggerated gestures. The Landowner (Erin Bushe) strikes an equally monotonous tone and rhythm throughout the play. The relationship between the Fisher (Emily Knutsson) and the Secretary (Tom Hindle) is also notably uninspiring.
Fortunately, there are two actors who save the day. Rob Merriam as the Unemployed is perfect for the role. With his simple expressions and innocent tone of voice, he portrays the bullied outcast wonderfully. His mental breakdown scene is to be admired. Another hero is Will Peppercorn as the Inspector. Despite not taking off his mask during the play, Peppercorn does not need facial expressions to express himself — the way he uses his whole body to express his emotions and the sudden changes in his tone are exceptional.
With its substandard jokes, hideous full bodysuits and (un)original script, Stained is a great example of how a play can be salvaged by two talented actors.
Image: Bedlam Theatre