Theatre

Review: The Confessions of Jeremy Perfect at La Mama

2 March 2018

It’s a blustery Wednesday evening, a dusty cool change coming through as I make my way from the Carlton Baths to the small, perfumed space of La Mama Courthouse. I’m here for the opening night of The Confessions of Jeremy Perfect, written by Sandy Fairthorne and directed by Judy Ellis.

Although promoted as a “dramatic comedy about marriage, panic attacks, anti depressants, and not always getting what you want,” it soon becomes clear that Jeremy Perfect would be better described as a dramatic comedy about bad sex and uncomfortable living arrangements.

Sometimes entertaining, often frustrating and always a little strained, Jeremy Perfect tells the story of a young couple struggling to find space for their relationship within a house crowded with a newborn child, two adult siblings and Jeremy’s brother’s unlikable ‘hot girlfriend’. The entire performance is played out across a single open-plan space within this family home, whose pseudo-bohemian inhabitants scream, smoke and drink red wine incessantly, each ostensibly driven by a private compulsion—to medicate, to be loved, to have a baby, and so on.

The ensemble cast on a whole delivers an energetic and cohesive performance within the parameters of their cliché-ridden roles. Particularly effective are the scenes between Eva Justine Torkkola (playing Jeremy’s wife Rosa) and Alex McTavish (playing her sister Annie). Early on, Torkkola delivers a strong performance in her own right, drawing laughter as she screams into a baby monitor (a testament to the innovative set design by Elisenda Russel). Together, though, the verbal sparring between the two sisters is particularly funny and poignant, even when over the top. I was left disappointed that the relationship between Rosa and Annie is all but forgotten in the second half, leaving both characters underdeveloped and little opportunity for Torkkola’s and McTavish’s high-energy sincerity to shine.

Jeremy himself (played by Simon Finch) is a motley ensemble of writerly clichés: borderline alcoholic, anxiety-ridden, impulsive, depressed and almost as unfit for the role of a Family Man as he is for the role of primary narrative-driving force in a play. Jeremy is nevertheless the only character developed enough to make intelligible, active decisions that affect the plot and the relationships between characters. Considering the pressure this places on Finch, he delivers an admirable and energetic performance, if a little heavy-handed on the thrusting, moaning and hair tousling.

As the performance went on I began to feel that in attempting to genuinely capture something about the messy, complicated essence of our relationships to others, Fairthorne instead created characters who are simultaneously too much and not at all there, each one a perfectly empty, eros-driven pastiche of literary and cultural tropes. Accordingly, the essence of Jeremy Perfect is best captured by what I feel to be the most stunningly self-aware line of dialogue in the play:

“You don’t love me! You just love fucking me!”

Taking a stab at the impulses and neuroses that shape our careers, families and relationships, Jeremy Perfect winds up being the dark dramatic comedy you’ve been waiting for, if what you’ve been waiting for is a complementary beverage and a topic for conversation on a windy Wednesday evening.

 

The Confessions of Jeremy Perfect is playing at La Mama Courthouse Feb 28 – March 11.


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