David Mamet’s 70s American, dialogue-heavy play is an ambitious undertaking for any amateur company, but the 3 protagonists played by Arthur Campbell, Henry Calcutt and Nici Marks are charming and subtle portrayals of 3 inner-city nobodies. All three deserve lots of credit for putting in the mammoth effort needed to revive this classic: their line delivery and embodiment of the characters is excellent.
Don (Campbell) is a junk-shop owner who is bitter about having sold a nickel to a customer for much less than he now believes it is worth. He plans to steal the coin back with the assistance of his young helper Bobby (Marks). That is, until the dominant Teach (Calcutt), a friend of Don’s, finds out about the plan and convinces Don that he should help him perform the burglary rather than Bobby. Needless to say, this does not go according to plan. In its portrayal of three vulnerable men living a stressful and deprived existence, it captures well how poverty can erase trust, create paranoia and destroy friendships on its way.
Nici Marks deserves a special shout-out for his moving portrayal of young junkie Bobby: the distressing final scene in which a conflict erupts between him and the other characters is the absolute highlight of this show. His penetrating fidgety panic made the audience sit on the edges of their seats to root for him.
There was plenty more for the audience to feast their senses on in this production. Tara Kelly and Linnea Heydenreich’s junk-shop design is a beautifully messy setting for the protagonists’ vulgar dialogue that makes you want to get up and rummage through to see what vintage American paraphernalia you might find. It’s a shame these unique props were not utilised more by the characters during their lengthy ramblings.
For all the effort and commitment so clearly put in by the three actors, I was slightly disappointed at the fairly low energy levels throughout the piece. With a dialogue that dense, it is key to deliver it snappily and for the dynamics to be changing constantly. The strong and dramatic final scene proved that this is absolutely something these actors are capable of, and I would have liked to have seen more of it throughout. The same holds for some of the more light-hearted sections of the play, which somewhat lacked the direction needed to be as funny as they could be. What’s often powerful about Mamet’s characters is that they touch upon caricature, which is something I missed in this production.
All in all, I consider this show a great feat by three very promising young actors and an entertaining night out!