Company of Rogues invites us into an intriguing, yet convoluted, tale of a time-travelling gent sent to redeem himself by saving a schizophrenic in 1980s Australia. Graeme Rhodes’ solo delivery is packed full of elaborate, multi-faceted characters who are each introduced with a fresh level of vigour as he enthralls with his authentic narration. However, the play is often tainted with unappealing complexity, as it becomes intensely entangled in the difficulty of presenting such demanding and delicate issues in a one-man show.
The difficult subject matter is dealt with sensitively.
A penetratingly atmospheric soundscape initiates a certain suspense when Rhodes first appears on stage. Futuristic reverberations interspersed with early 19th century sound effects effectively merge the two worlds of gentleman and modern man, whilst emphasising that, though technology has advanced over 200 years, the human mind remains constant. Rhodes’ command of the space through artistic multi-rolling made the performance worth a watch if only for his extensive collection of voices.
It is a shame that his extraordinary delivery is overshadowed by the bare stage, which contained only a chair. Perhaps more performers would leave the stage less of an obvious negative, but as the dialogue escalates into an intricate intensity, it is frustrating to have no other element of the show to divert attention.
The show was too fast-paced for its own good. The audience were never given the chance to invest fully into each diverse character as the narrative forced Rhodes to switch between personalities too quickly. The two families separated by years of scientific advancement but both dealing with issues of mental health are not easy to invest sympathy in, but the difficult subject matter is dealt with sensitively.
A tremendously concentrated effort by Rhodes elevates this narrative out of stagnation. Though the topics evoked emotional response, the repetitive narrative made it a struggle to follow at times. It was fortunate Rhodes took control of the whole performance with such vigour; the drawn out nature and bare landscape caused boredom only avoided due to his talent.