Review by Rhys Tarling
Set in the not too distant future – where natural resources have dwindled and the air is unbreathable – The Trembling Giant squares its focus on two people, Margo (Zoe Street) and Flint (Peter Lane Townsend). Margo and Flint dwell within a dirt-ridden bunker, far from an apocalyptically sterile civilisation.
Flint, donning a red plaid shirt and sporting a man bun so we know that he’s an earthy kind of guy, see, leaves the bunker every day in search of clean water and seeds that might become real food someday. Margo and Flint get their sustenance from supping on a plastic packet of protein mush and by god do Zoe Street and Peter Lane Townsend manage to sell the hell out of how utterly glum and depressing that would be.
They’re the only players in this drama but they hold your attention the entire time, even when forced to deliver some truly clumsy dialogue that seems to actively interrupt some great dialogue.
For example, a scene will begin with Flint arriving home after a long day and the ensuing back-and-forth between them successfully conveys the mix of loving familiarity and the subtle ways one pisses the other off. It’s authentic. Lived in. But then they’re given some cryptic expository lines to deliver, which, in theory, alludes to a far bigger and richer world than the budget of a Blue Room Theatre play would allow. But it’s not in service of anything else. The unnaturalness of one telling the other things they surely already know but are said anyway for the audience’s benefit is truly jarring when moments before the dialogue rang true and subtly developed character. Yes, it’s inelegant but not without an admirable ambition about it.
Writer/director Monty Sallur clearly wants to go big here, tackling grand themes like environmentalism, morality, fundamentalism. Giving these broad themes their due and doing it under an hour and for bus change is certainly a brave proposition. Yet there’s nothing like a simple idea that is so finely executed, like a claustrophobic psychological drama. At its best, The Trembling Giant is a finely executed claustrophobic psychological drama. At its worst, it nearly veers off the rails to deliver you a Very Special Message, and to attempt some world building which would better suit a reasonably budgeted feature film.
Anyway, Margo stays at the bunker jealously guarding last remaining tree on earth. Skeletal and without a hint of green, the tree appears to be deader than dead. But that doesn’t stop Margo from pleading, cursing and loving the tree with a kind of mad religious fervour.
For much of the play Zoe Street is forced to emote against a tree prop. Without the aid of any lighting or sound effects, no matter how good Zoe Street is as Margo, and she is good, the scene can’t help but come off as fundamentally ridiculous. But then there are times where there is excellent use of lighting (Rhiannon Petersen) and eerie sound effects (Alex & Yell) and the scene takes on a whole new tone – creepy and borderline nightmarish.
The Trembling Giant is worth seeing. It’s not without its clumsy moments. But more often than not this is a tense and original work that’s admirably ambitious and the performers never miss a note when it counts.
The Trembling Giant will be showing at the Blue Room Theatre until August 27. For tickets and more information, visit the Blue Room Website here.