Review: Gaping Hole (Story #3)
Image: Christa Holka
Gaping Hole (Story #3) is the third part in a non-linear trilogy about radical narrative.
In the Shawshank Redemption, wrongly convicted Andy Dufresne spends years digging a tunnel to freedom from his prison cell.
He hides his work under a large picture of Rita Hayworth.
On the day of his escape, Andy crawls his way towards the outside world and perfectly replaces the poster on the wall to mask his escape route.
We're so emotionally satisfied when Andy rips off his prison uniform in the rain that we forget to ask how he could possibly have replaced the poster from inside the tunnel.
But how *could* he possibly have replaced the poster from inside the tunnel?
What holes are we prepared to overlook in order to stay comfortable?
Following Mars and Wohead's cult hit Story #1, Gaping Hole (Story #3) is the third part in a non-linear trilogy about radical narrative.
The self-styled 'hotbed of artistic activism' which is Ovalhouse, inhabits a location just across the road from the famous Oval cricket ground.
Perhaps fed-up with cricket balls flying through their windows or irritated by marauding, face-painted fans streaming past their front door and queering their theatrical pitch, the venue is drawing stumps and moving to spanking new accommodation in Brixton which will open in 2021.
In celebration of its impending departure - and subsequent demolition of the existing building - Ovalhouse has programmed a 'ground-breaking' season entitled The Demolition Party which aims to 'deconstruct' its now (almost) defunct home.
Gaping Hole (Story #3) is described as the third part in a non-linear trilogy that follows on the heals of Rachel Mars and Greg Wohead's Story #1.
I didn't catch that first part of the trilogy, so can't attest to how this current show progresses themes from the original.
That shouldn't matter though, since it's unlikely that the writers/ performers can rely on audience members having seen their previous production.
In fact, it turns out that Gaping Hole (Story #3) has a self-contained motif that stands-up on its own regardless of anything that went before.
A gaping hole is indeed in evidence in the floor of the venue's upstairs studio.
No information is supplied about who dug the hole, but I'm guessing that it wasn't the performers.
However, they do spend a considerable amount of time in the hole, forcing members of the audience in the back rows to crane to see what's happening.
For the first third of the show, I gave up trying to see anything and relied on my hearing.
The hole in the floor finds a near-reflection in a hole cut out of the back wall.
It wasn't there at the start and the performers seemed to fall through it at one point, but since I couldn't see where they came from I don't know how the new hole actually appeared.
Other 'gaping holes' appear in different guises.
The basic hook in the first part of the show points up holes in plot elements in films - such as The Shawshank Redemption.
The performers worry here about how Andy Dufresne managed to fix the poster on the wall to cover the hole through which he made his escape from prison.
That inspires a tediously lacklustre story delivered by Rachael Mars about a Shawshank mouse.
And then Titanic comes in for the same treatment with Greg Wohead taking one scene from the film's plot and turning it into a kind of weird gay sex fantasy where the principal character is rogered with a sea cucumber (no, it's not nearly as funny as that sounds).
The main idea of holes in stories - including our own personal ones - is potentially powerful with a whiff of genius, but the scent evaporates early on and is never realised in a meaningful way.
That's due to lame and ineffectual writing as well as the overall performance style.
Reading mostly from scripts, Rachel Mars and Greg Wohead almost appear uninterested in their own work, and their style of delivery seems deliberately unpolished as if they only had cursory rehearsal time.
They frequently stumble over lines and their ability in using microphones is generally lamentable and irritating.
If they had dragged a couple of non-actors from the audience and asked them to read from scripts, the result might have been similar to the performances we actually see.
That may be their chosen presentiational style (casual and 'non-actorly'?) and possibly the hallmark of their work, though I couldn't discern any plausible justification for it given the subject matter.
In the technical department, there's a nice touch of chroma key work in the last segment, but that mildly interesting device was more than overshadowed by the dull, uninspiring and unexciting nature of what had gone before.
Apart from the gaping hole in the floor, this is hardly 'ground-breaking' stuff.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Ovalhouse
Our show listing for Gaping Hole (Story #3)
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