Monday 10 June 2019

Drive review

In 2007, NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, embarked on a 14-hour drive to confront her ex-partner's new girlfriend. When apprehended by police, they discovered a wig, a BB pistol and ammunition, pepper spray, an 8-inch knife and a hammer in her car. This was clearly not intended to be a friendly visit. Drive, a new Australian work by Rebecca Meston, looks to explore not only what causes a woman who seemingly has everything to have a complete breakdown and become enveloped by revenge, but also to contemplate the expectations that are placed on women by society to play certain roles.

Unfortunately, Drive is unable to live up to the excitement of its origin and spreads itself far too thin as it attempts to make a commentary about the various factors surrounding this event. The production is too cold and distant in allowing the audience to understand our protagonist's frame of mind, and this comes mainly from the writing and the direction. Considering that Nowak wore adult diapers during her drive to prevent any unnecessary stops, Meston's script has no sense of urgency and is void of any tension and suspense. Sasha Zahra's direction is too focused in theatricality and not from a connection or emotional response to the story.

For most of Drive, Lizzy Falkland sits in the driver's seat on stage and this literal lack of movement proves difficult to remain engaged by an actor when there is nothing to capture our attention. There is great inner turmoil in this story yet none of this is conveyed through the direction of Falkland or by her performance. When supporting cast, Ashton Malcolm and Christopher Pitman, appear in flashback scenes, they do not communicate directly with her, which creates awkward moments in the show and further pushes the audience out of the world being presented. It is perplexing how an event based on a person's anger, jealousy, despair and sadness has so little emotions emanating in a production of it.

Due to having occured in America, the team have opted to use American accents that are not always convincing and sometimes come across as a caricature of said accent. Falkland's intonation and pronunciation feels unnatural and restrained and so we are not given an opportunity to see this woman unravel. This leads to the question, if time or location are not specific to a play, then why use accents that are so jarring?

The design elements breathe some life to Drive with Ian Moorhead's sound and Meg Wilson's lighting design working well together in representing the loneliness and isolation Nowak would have experienced in space, in her car and in her mind. Another particular highlight is their combined work in the simulation of the rocket taking off and landing.

The aftermath of Nowak's journey became fodder for the tabloids as it fed on the downfall and ridicule of a woman who dared let her feelings get the better of her. Drive may take off in first gear in its telling of this story, but it stalls very early on and is never able to get itself - or its audience - back on the road. 

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda 
Season: Until 15 June | Tues - Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm 
Tickets: $47.50 Full | $39.50 Conc | $32.50 Students/Under 30 
Bookings: Theatre Works 

Photo Credit: Jodie Hutchinson

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