Between Two Waves by Australian playwright Ian Meadows interweaves an urgent call to recognise the world’s impending climate crisis and the troubled smaller world of a young climatologist who struggles to deliver his message and make it intelligible. To a certain extent the play has the same problem.
energetic and thoroughly enjoyable
John Black gives an engaging and at times endearing performance as Daniel, capturing the frustrations, insecurities and social ineptitude of the nerdy scientist. He powerfully demonstrates Daniel’s convictions, particularly in one grippingly impassioned speech that rattles off the the knock-on effects of global warming as the phenomenon spirals uncontrollably towards bringing about the demise of the Earth as we know it. He is drawn out of his academic isolation and into the political arena as a government adviser by fellow climatologist, Jimmy. Liam Murray Scott exerts considerable presence in this role, with a menacing air that hints of his possibly radical affiliations and propensity for direct action. It’s unfortunate for him that this part is lamentably underwritten, Meadows having failed to build on the potential for giving depth to this character, his background and relationship to Daniel.
The stimulus for the plot is a torrential and violent storm that has flooded Daniel’s flat and perhaps irreparably damaged the discs on which his work is stored. Enter the insurance company’s loss assessor, Grennelle. Karina Mills captures the bureaucratic secretarial efficiency of a woman whose job revolves around precise wording and tick boxes, but then leaves the client with a mountain of paperwork to complete, which is a huge inconvenience when one is trying to save the world. To spice up the situation Daniel’s lack of a love life provides another strand and allows for the introduction of Fiona, who manages to inject further complexities into the growing malaise, not least when she becomes pregnant. Pip O'Neill brings eccentricity, bluntness and a certain crudity to this determined if somewhat fly-by-night character.
All of this could make for an interesting and straightforward story and director Luke Ofield has done a sound job in creating locations around the stage and bringing out the tensions and humour that permeate the play. Unfortunately. Meadows has inundated the tale with a superfluity of issues and background incidents which, while they impinge on the current situation create complexity and mystery rather than providing clarity. Daniel’s relationship with his important father, the matter of his sister’s death, or perhaps suicide, his poor health and the ongoing crisis in Grenelle’s marriage relayed through multiple phone calls and many more are thrown into the melting pot. Which brings us to the real complexity of the play: just who is Fiona? The two women appear on stage together but behave as though the other is not there; they have no interaction. Deciding on this allows for ample speculation and the possibility of connecting Daniel’s past to her ghostly presence. Then, to bring us back into the real world a somewhat contrived interview allows Daniel to spout a little more about climate change.
It’s all rather unsettling and yet despite the unfocussed and befuddled script this production by Unmasked Theatre is energetic and thoroughly enjoyable,leaving room for thought in so many domains.