Concussion | Ellandar ProductionsRoss Mueller tackles angst-ridden modern-day issues in this tragedy that wants to be a comedy.

Julia cradles Caesar in her arms as he lays on the lounge room floor, swathed in bandages, lips and eyes battered and swollen. This scene opens and closes Ellandar Productions’ latest offering, a complex interplay between six characters all affecting each others’ lives, with Julia at the centre of a story she is determined will not become another tragedy, with dance, music and awkward humour her weapons.

Nichola Renton plays Julia, harassed by too many men in her life and trying to find a secure future for herself. Richard Mellick’s Caesar tries to find the truth behind what has happened to him, striving to remember his life with Julia, what has recently driven them to angry words and whether he is truly a good and decent man. James Junior Junior is played with maddening deviousness and obfuscation by Ian Bolgia, his lack of self-awareness only matched by his lack of empathy. His brother, James Junior, is played with soul-searching intensity by Paul Grabovac, remarkable in his ability to bring dignity and gravitas to death by accordion. Russya Connor creates a spin doctor Katerina who is alluring, witty, sexually-demanding, compassionate and honest, but is blind-sided by the youth of Sergio (Danen Engelenberg), Caesar’s teenage son who is passionate about injustice, blogging and the joys of ejaculation.

Every performer adds more than expected for each character, immersing the audience in a little world of ugly divorce settlements, internet harassment, unwitting paedophilia, career disillusionment, broadcasting double standards, moral dilemmas, teenage self-obsession and the romance of the piano accordion. While the focus begins on Julia’s story, an early moment in which the characters all join in an intimate dance between Caesar and Sergio encapsulates the entanglements that keep them together while splitting them all apart, Katerina pursuing Sergio, James Junior pursuing Katerina, James Junior Junior being cast aside from Julia in favour of Sergio, Sergio and James Junior Junior left to drift aside with envious glances back to the two remaining pairs...

Director Sarah McKellar keeps the pace moving despite the density of the interactions within the script, never allowing the wordplay, mind games and personal quests bog down the neatly unpacked, then re-packed, plot. Iona McAuley has designed a cosily domestic set which the performers’ dramatic flair allows to be visioned as everything from a grassy park to a bridge railing to a courtroom. Whimsical musical selections feature piano accordion riffs in a surprising variety of scenes and Beth Ewell keeps the lighting effects subtle while closely tracking the changing emotional intensity of the performance.

Concussion has moments of surreal lightness amidst the sometimes harrowing gloom of the lives of six sad people, cuts close to the hidden truths of many aspects of modern life and is another compelling dramatic piece from Ellandar Productions.

Ellandar Productions presents
by Ross Mueller

Directed by Sarah McKellar

Venue: The Blue Room Theatre | Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
Dates: 12 – 30 August 2014
Tickets: $15 – $25

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