Pinter on Death and Love _ page 1 review
Antartica Starts Here ______page 2 review

Reviews by Howard Dossor and a brief history of WAX.

Pinter on Death and Love
"The Melburnian", Oct/Nov 1997
Extracts from the Theatre review by Howard F Dossor.
Wax Studios, "Dumb Love",
Pinter Double Bill, 10th - 21st September 1997

Melbourne's theatrical pulse is best read with reference to the standard of its local productions, staged throughout the year at the Fairfax, the Playbox, the Malthouse, La Mama and the numerous small theatres and studios studded throughout the city and its suburbs. The recently created Wax Studio, housed in a warehouse/theatre in Albert Street, East Richmond, is typical of this latter group. Founded in 1996, by the late Paul Wishart, who was well known to Malthouse patrons and who died tragically in May 1997, Wax serves as a meeting house for artists and artisans of all persuasions, providing them with an opportunity to test their creativity within a supportive community group with a varying range of expertise and talent to bring to bear in judgment. Following Wishart's death, the concept was held together and cleverly developed by a group of troupers, Pieta Collard, Robert Corner, Eric Baines, Julian Firminger and Peter Leiss

Apart from poetry readings, play readings, benefit nights and acting classes, Wax also offers assistance to budding theatrical directors. It actively encourages local playwrights and aspiring directors to submit their proposals to the discipline of a reading, held each Sunday evening, and is constantly looking for local drama to produce. The studio provides, in the words of a publicity blurb, 'an affordable space ... where like-minded people share and assist in each other's creations.'

In addition to its encouragement of raw talent, Wax has ventured into production with a Pinter Double Bill, The Dumb Waiter and The Lover. The Dumb Waiter, one of Pinter's earliest plays, is a beautifully structured play, which makes considerable demands upon its two-man cast. One is on stage for the duration of the play; the other leaves spasmodically only to return very quickly. It is an intense play, focusing on two hit-men, visiting Birmingham on a contract and the audience is caught up with them as, with their very different psychological profiles, they psyche themselves up for their unsavory task. The sparse, dingy hotel room in which they wait, is well presented here, with visual plumbing and an air of decay

Peter Leiss' Ben, who spends much of the play reclined on a bed, is close to impeccable. He utilizes the dramatic impact of the cross-room glance with menacing power and his nervous energy which we might think difficult to express on a bed, is well expended here. His criminal spiv reading of the part seems to come right out of London's Hackney where Pinter grew up and where there must have been Bens in abundance in the 50s. Of particular note is Leiss' management of the ambivalence Pinter builds into the part. Even after the play, we cannot be sure whether Ben had any advance knowledge of the way events would unfold. This is a compelling performance by a very talented actor

Ben's bete noir is Gus, played by Robert Corner; a very nervous Gus -with very good reason as it turns out. On opening night, one sensed that Comer's stage movements were a little uneven but one would have hesitated to tell him so for fear that he might have over-corrected when it was only the slightest tightening that seemed required. And yet, by the third night, everything was under control and the movements were locked, almost regimentally, into Gus' nervous disposition. Corner explained in a private conversation following the curtain that he deliberately set out to vary his performance each night in an effort to explore fully the dimensions of the character.

For The Dumb Waiter to work as theatre, there must be a real symbiosis between the two actors who perform it. Leiss and Corner have this to a remarkable degree and whether their alter egos are trying to support each other in their uneasy waiting or tearing at each other in frustration, they are held together in a powerful dance of death. One hopes to see more of these two working together. The Pinter double runs for three weeks. If, at the end of that time it is folded up and put away into cupboards and drawers, it will be a considerable loss to many theatergoers. One hopes that it can move to a more central Melbourne location with a capacity for a large audience and indeed, that a local sponsor can be found who will take it to Sydney to give our neighbours a clear indication that theatre in Melbourne is alive and well.

robert corner and peter leiss
the dumb waiter


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