© Copyright 2005
Written by Darren Brealey & Stuart Pursell
Produced by Darren Brealey
Theatre Review Written By: Darren Pope
Position: Arts Journalist
Dated: 6th October 2005
It’s Just Wicked
THEY don’t call this the city of festivals for nothing. The Melbourne International Arts Festival launches this week but there are still a couple of days to catch a few pearls from Fringe Festival. Comfort Zone by Cosmic Players is one such work. Produced by play writes Darren Brealey and Stuart Pursell this fringe piece has the local theatre scene firmly in it’s sights and it pulls no punches. Funding bodies, egomaniacally artistic directors, green playwrights all get a good ribbing.
The play itself was born out of frustration of Brealey and Pursell in gaining support from the theatre industry. One slap in the face too many and they’ve put it all in a play. The end result is a thespian take in the manner of Mark Latham diaries.
The farce unfolds in the admin office of a local theatre company on the eve of news of the latest funding round. Artistic director Deirdre James is ropable to learn her sexual favours for arts funding have backfired. Not only is the Arts Minister not coming to the swish pre season launch, but also there will be no money.
The great strength of the Melbourne Fringe Festival is in giving performance space to new untried works. It is difficult to imagine a play like Comfort Zone gaining a season, let alone an appreciative audience, at another time. Don’t expect gay soapbox theatre from these playwrights. Comfort Zone is rampantly heterosexual and that’s one of its strengths. It comes across as a bitter drag queen take on the whole incestuous theatre world. Double-ended dildos in the filing cabinet, ejaculate dressing on hot dogs, weak bladders, post coital cigarettes every 5 min.
The humour is pitch black and if you needed an argument for ‘gay sensitivity’ in the arts, here it is. All the performers have a ball, hamming up their respective roles. Alexis Beebe as Deirdre James is a stand out, playing the over sexed artistic director like a frisky she goat in pursuit of a horny mate. As the struggling playwright, Izeqiel McCoy definitely has the X factor.
In Comfort Zone, Cosmic Players have delivered a rare gem in the hit and miss festival game – a piece of new theatre that is hilariously self referential and thematically bold.
1 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne
Until Oct 9
Theatre Review Written By: Tony McMahon
Position: Arts Journalist
Dated: 21st September 2005
Melbourne playwrights Darren Brealey and Stuart Pursell have conceived a deliciously witty and physical comedy, Comfort Zone portraying their view of Melbourne’s theatre scene.
Where did Comfort Zone come from? It started as they sat in darkened theatres, watching emerging playwrights tell their stories with minimal sets and props about talking chickens and displaced farm-wives or the arrested drunk and disorderly gentlefolk of the Northern Territory. These two playwrights couldn’t understand why the rhetoric being performed in front of them made it – on stage. The audience lapped up this diatribe of tasteless wooing and strutting, without an ounce of understanding of what they were watching, but they loved it – it was new theatre, so it must’ve been good.
Darren and Stuart decided their work made more sense, held powerful emotion and told a story the old fashioned way – beginning, middle and end. Yet, they couldn’t get produced. One night after another disappointing night at the theatre, they decided to purposely write a well crafted play, with a plot whose characters lives ironically disintegrate into the same type of bad play theatre companies produce
Comfort Zone tells the story of a woman with more power than she deserves, whose lost touch with the reality of the industry she claims to have single-handedly created. Deirdre James is a protagonist clinging to the last bastion of power (let alone integrity) and in between programming her friend’s work and shagging the Art’s Minister’s PA, she flaunts herself with an air of superiority wrapped round a Greenroom Award. This is a woman who can make or break the drug and alcohol addictions of many aspiring playwrights. When Deirdre’s sexual favours for arts funding backfires, she is faced with a financial ultimatum that is delivered by a socially misfortunate lad who works for the Arts Minister. His news wreaks havoc upon their fragile lives.
This is extreme fringe. Expect to be entertained by a rather frank and honest opinion of how arts funding is decided and disseminated, a perception of the selection criteria for many theatrical managers and how they plan their theatre seasons.
This is a comedy about our view of what it’s really like to know someone in the upper echelons of power of the theatre world. It’s who you know and boy do we push that envelope. Keep in mind this is a tongue-in-cheek comedy that allows a good dose of laughter at ourselves as playwrights and artisans. Often we think we know what is going on behind closed doors – the question remains, “Is Comfort Zone pointing in the right direction?”
Theatre Review Written By: Daniel G. Tylor
Position: Arts Journalist
Program: Stage Whispers
Dated: Volume 14, Number 6, Nov - Dec 2005
Self-deluded Deirdre James (Alexis Beebe) is a theatre's Artistic Director struggling to hold power against the machinations of the Yes-Man (Timothy Wotherspoon) and the cleaning lady, Shereen (Melanie Sharp).
Just when you're beginning to think Grantley McPorpus (Steven Sparke) is likeable, his phobias of everything from sex to stairs convince you otherwise. Throw an aspiring writer, Brian (Izeqiel McCoy) into the mix and it becomes a mad rush for power to see who will emerge on top. Fortunately, in the end, everyone gets what he or she deserves.
While the characters get what they deserve, the actors didn't on opening night with a freak storm flooding the set and causing cancellation of the show. All the cast did well to come back the next night and give an even more energetic performance than the night before.