Lost Gem is Fool’s Gold: Review of SITCO and Le Theatre des Assassins’ Roberto Zucco
Le Théâtre des Assassins (don’t let the name fool you, they’re Australian) is a recently formed theatre company with the purpose of bringing little known and forgotten European plays to an Australian audience. Their first offering, currently playing with the Sydney Independent Theatre Company, is French playwright B. M. Koltès’ Roberto Zucco (1990). Unfortunately for Le Théâtre des Assassins, there may be a reason why this play is obscure and forgotten.
The play is based around the exploits of the French serial killer Roberto Succo (Zucco in the play). Zucco was imprisoned for murdering his father and on the play’s opening he escapes to murder his mother. From there he has a series of encounters with several people in society, by turns helping them and arbitrarily killing them. There isn’t much else to say about the plot as the play’s scenes are quite fragmented with little other development then a small romance. This on its own is not a great problem however there are several traits in the script which will probably only serve to annoy audiences (despite director Anna Jahjah’s apparent high regard for it). The dialogue is drastically overwritten: characters spend a great deal of time spouting lengthy monologues which say very little and hardly contribute to the story or their characters. As a result there is minimal interaction between characters on stage for long periods of time. There are some nice lines to be had from time to time, but for the most part the dialogue is overdone. The characters also appear to be very inconsistent: the audience is never given any real insight into why Zucco behaves the way he does. Likewise several other characters’ motivations and actions are left unexamined; in such circumstances, it is difficult for the actor to make any sensible interpretation of their role. What does this mean? Basically it’s a challenge for the audience to feel any sort of empathy for the main characters making for tedious viewing, and at close to two hours in length the piece is too long by half.
The cast though has done their best with the material given to them. Gemma Scoble played ‘The Girl’ who lost her virginity to the illustrious Roberto Zucco. As in her previous SITCO role Friday, Scoble has once again demonstrated that she can hold her own on stage. Scoble is a watchable actress (whilst never pulling focus) and importantly, she is always acting between the pauses. Overall she produces some lovely moments, both spoken and unspoken.
Sam Dugmore was the stand out comic performance as ‘The Guard’, ‘The Pimp’ and ‘The Police Sergeant’. Dugmore has great comic flair and timing, whilst possessing a consistent natural aura on stage. Similarly, Kirsty Jordan as ‘The Mother’ provided good comic relief, arguably the only character that suited the ‘ham up’, which was a trade mark of this production.
Another solid performance came from Lyn Pierse as ‘The Madam’ and the ‘Old Woman’. As ‘The Madam’ Pierse was quite convincing, showcasing an air of wisdom, street-smarts and experience. Yet Pierse really came into her element as the ‘Old Woman’, arguably stealing the scene with her flawless comic delivery. Pierse was consistent throughout – a breath of fresh air for the production.
Unfortunately Danielle Stamoulos as the girl’s ‘Sister’ had a tendency to overplay her role without truly connecting with the dialogue or her character. This is certainly a shame as she was aesthetically right for the role. This can also be said of Tim Cole as Roberto Zucco. Cole looked the part but playing it was another thing altogether. Cole has a tendency to exhibit the dialogue, rather than approaching it as the character would. This becomes quite obvious when the script is so fragmented, which along with Cole’s choices, makes for a fragmented characterisation.
Generally it could be said that the actors lacked direction. All appear to be overdoing their roles to a certain degree, whilst lacking definitive direction as to basic blocking and character arcs. However, to their credit, the entire cast was audible and generally spoke well, especially Neil Modra who has a fantastic voice for stage.
As far as the set goes it consists of little more than a collection of milk crates, staked on top of each other in strategically selected locations with two wings of rice paper screens. This was a nice idea, and by doing so Jahjah was able to make seamless scene transitions by rearranging the crates, musical interludes (with Michael Leonard on trumpet) and a clever lighting design. At times the actors may have looked a little precarious perched on their crates, and they may have gotten in the way on occasion, but for the most part this choice seems to have paid off.
It’s disappointing that this new company couldn’t have made a more auspicious debut, and ultimately it comes down to their choice of material. It’s always a shame that when watching a serial killer (as an audience member) your only desire is that he kills you next, and be done with it. Here’s hoping their next forgotten play is a lost gem and not fool’s gold.
Roberto Zucco is playing at the Old Fitzroy Theatre until the 19th of October. For more information see: http://www.sitco.net.au/