Theatre Review: The Man from Earth

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Presented by Red Phoenix Theatre and Holden Street Theatres
Reviewed 16 August 2018

Director Robert Kimber has said the theme of the play can be encapsulated in the idea of ‘moving on’ but at the same time we can never know where the next journey may take us. Time is of the essence in the play as is the existential question of time being seen subjectively by each of us.

In Jerome Bixby’s play the central character John Oldman, played by Fahad Farooque, is preparing to move on yet again. He is a man who is outside of time – he’s been here so long and has seen so much, he is almost literally ‘from the earth’. He has avoided his own farewell party thrown by his university colleagues, and they all arrive at his place as he is loading up to leave wanting to know why he’s leaving and where he’s going.

In the first part of the play, as the characters arrive and establish their roles, the performances lacked pace and were somewhat hesitant with cues missed and fluffed lines. All the performers gained in confidence as the play progressed and no doubt the pace and rhythm will improve over time.

Andrew Horwood’s performance as Dan and Lindsay Dunn as Harry stood out as more polished performances, which were no doubt helped by having better dialogue in the script. Both characters are able to question John in terms of their own academic disciplines – anthropology and biology respectively.

Although Bixby did not complete the screenplay until close to his death in 1998, the idea had been with him since the 1960s and this is reflected in the gender roles. Lyn Wilson, playing Edith, an Art History professor, is only allowed a brief comment on a Van Gogh ‘copy’.  Rather than her academic knowledge she is left to portray a somewhat irrational, Christian side of her nature, finally breaking down into tears.

The performance picked up pace after the interval but it never really gripped me. The tension which should have crackled between John and the other characters as they questioned both his story and their own beliefs in trying to make sense of what John claimed was rarely more than mild effervescence.

When we meet the psychiatrist Will, played by Brant Eustice, some sparks did fly as he tried to analyse John’s behaviour in a Freudian framework as he believes John is mad.

I won’t spoil the ending for you but the tension finally hits the high notes right at the end.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Venue:  The Studio, Holden Street Hindmarsh
Season: 16-25 August 7.30pm, 19 August 2.00pm
Duration:  2 hours
Tickets:  Tickets $25 Adults $19 Conc
Bookings: http://www.holdenstreettheatres.com/index.php/What-s-On/Red-Phoenix-Theatre/man-earth

https://www.redphoenixtheatre.com/

 

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