Here is an unedited version of the article. For the Sydney Morning Herald click on this post's title. (photo: Simon Elekna)
“Insalata & Accessible Absurdism”
by Benito Di Fonzo.
“It was salad days back then,” says Patrick Brammall of the time last year when he and co-writer/performer John Leary won The Philip Parsons Young Playwright’s Award, had their first play staged, and were commissioned to write a B Sharp production.
“It was all high-fives and check-us-out and how we can get a commission, and then there was the reality of doing it...”
“Holy Moses,” remembers Leary, “we have to write a show!”
Brammall and Leary have a healthy rapport, as evidenced by the number of times they finish each other’s sentences or digress into topics ranging from Gunter Von Hagen’s plastinated corpses, Tony Abbott, or the deficiencies of Facebook’s ‘Scrabulous’ versus genuine Scrabble. No wonder their company is called Easily Distracted.
Their first play The Suitors was written whilst sharing a house in Camperdown, taking turns typing whilst bouncing ideas around the walls. However that was suddenly impossible with Brammall moving interstate to film the upcoming Channel 9 series Canal Road, then travelling overseas with his girlfriend on the proceeds. They turned then to the already mentioned popular website, making Vital Organs possibly the first play written on Facebook.
Vital Organs begins with the two actors performing a light-hearted show about the history of medicine called Vital Organs. Things veer towards weirdness when Brammall’s character decides their long-running show must delve deeper into the meaning of pain and the human body. He decides he can do this by removing his own organs in front of an audience.
“We actually tried to write a serious play,” says Brammall. “That’s where the idea of the man removing his organs came from, the idea of a man on an existential quest. He feels pain and doesn’t know how to deal with it so he tries to locate it within his own body and he finds it, he thinks it’s in his stomach, so he tries to open up and physically remove it, and that was quite serious, but the difficulty with us writing together is that we tend to live in the ‘joy zone.’ We’re not very comfortable staying in the...”
“In the dark,” interrupts Leary.
Living in separate cities and writing via the web presented it’s own problems, such as how to distinguish each other’s changes to the script.
“When either of us had an addition or an amendment we’d change the colour of the font,” says Leary.
“So it was a rainbow script,” adds Brammall. “We’re like Brad and Angelina in a way.”
“How?” asks Leary.
“Well,” explains Brammall, “our words are our children, and they’re a rainbow.”
“So what are we: John-Trick?”
“No, I’m Brad, you’re Angelina.”
“Yeah; Brangelina; Johntrick.”
“Pat-John? Patathon? No, you’re not Jonathon are you?”
“Johntrick, that’s a shit name.”
I suggest we leave that one to the editors at Who Weekly to work out and ask how the long-distance writing relationship affected the final draft.
“I certainly didn’t expect to come up with something so absurd,” says Brammall. “Not just silly either, it actually travels and constantly deviates in ways I didn’t expect. It’s completely off the beam, but not obscure...”
“I think it’s accessible Absurdism,” says Leary.
“There you go,” laughs Brammall, “corporate Absurdism.”
“No,” corrects Leary, “rather than Absurdism that leaves you completely baffled, I think...”
“It still has a logic integrity to it that you can follow,” adds Brammall, “so you understand how they got to where they are but it’s ridiculous where they get to - a man trying to take out his organs and another man...”
“Doing everything that he can to stop it,” finishes Leary.
While there are no Dr. Von Hagen-style organs exposed there are a few faux bodily fluids passed through the show.
“[Designer] Bobby Cousins has to come up with stage wee and stage poo,” says Leary.
“And it’s got to be the right kind of warm so that if someone touches it they’ll think it’s wee,” adds Brammall.
It won’t put people off their dinner?
“You’ll be able to eat before the show,” says Brammall helpfully.
Perhaps something to remind you of your salad days?
“A salad yeah, some sort of insalata would be good, then your main meal, then come see the show and get some desert afterwards.”
By Patrick Brammall and John Leary.
Directed by Matt Whittet.
November 29 – December 22.
Belvoir St. Downstairs Theatre.
$29/$23 (Preview November 28 $20, Tuesday Pay-What-You-Can min $10)
Bookings 9699 3444 or www.belvoir.com.au