WHAT: The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti
WHEN: 3 - 13 August 2022
WHERE: Theatreworks - Explosives Factory
WRITTEN BY: Cassandra-Elli Yiannacou
DIRECTED BY: Chris Hosking
PERFORMED BY: Connor Dariol, Hayley Edwards, El Kiley, and Shamita Siva
|Connor Dariol, El Kiley, and Shamita Siva - photo by Sarah J Clarke
Let's start with trigger warnings which neither the production team nor venue thought were needed for The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti. If you feel you need support after seeing this play please contact Beyond Blue or Lifeline. Next, let's advise that the new Theatreworks venue, Explosives Factory, is not accessible (not even for abled bodied people who are fully sighted if you count the first step and also the rostra design for the seating bank). There is no stage manager credited which is probably why I just had to do this. Now that we are all safe, I will get on with the review.
Cassandra-Elli Yiannacou is an emerging writer who appears to have a fascination with suicide, based on this work and her published play Loose Teeth. I don't know if this is because she has been touched by this but I felt in The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti this obsession is almost careless.
So a ghost (Connor Dariol), a psychologist (Shamita Siva), and a scientist (El Kiley) walk into a bar... Sorry, wrong play. But seriously, The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti is a science fiction phsychological thriller. It is full of piano playing pigeons and space whales and something called quantum time. You will learn a lot of fun, geeky science facts in this play - including that 42 is a coding space holder (this one is for Douglas Adams fans). Too much? Maybe. I did tune out at the last scientific monologue which might explain why I don't remember what it was about...
The premise of The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti is that a physicist in the 80's who is trying to crack the quantum time equation dies before they get it done. A 19th century pianist ghost tries to change that by bringing the physicist into the same space/time moment as a phsychologist 4o years in the future on the roof of the building they both live(d) in. The thing which allows this to happen is a universal harmonic of loneliness (they will explain this in the play).
As the play progresses we discover it is a Groundhog Day type story. The Ghost tells us at the start that 'Humanity has a plan', but that it doesn't care about us. This story is for all those people who think they have free will and determine their life outcomes. This story is for all those people who believe in fate, destiny, kismet.
I actually really enjoyed the play and I think Yiannacou is a great writer but there are dramaturgical issues - which is weird because there are two credited dramaturgs! The play is billed at 90 minutes but the run time on opening was almost 2 hours. It should be a 90 minute play. This would be easy to achieve and would create greater audience satisfaction.
First, some of the science stuff can be edited - especially that last scientific monologue which I zoned out of (sorry, but I can't give more informationt than that). The big change though would be to cut the final 'act'. Strangely, the play bookends about 3/4 of the way in, and then there is a coda. The natural end is a tad cliche but it feels right. The coda only serves to give an unfulfilled hope. This is a dangerous part of the play given it's content. If they want us to viscerally feel disillusion it succeeds but that is a very dangerous sword to wield if you don't have the infrastructure to back that up.
That final act does give some new information but nothing about it is important to the story. We do get a bit more back story for the Ghost and the Psychologist but none of that materially increases insight. Also, I love a good tilt at subverting expectations but in this case the potential damage is not worth the experiment. No risk assessment or safety plan has even been considered in developing this work.
I will say the performances are great. I felt the cast really ought to be older, but the actors were wonderful and did good, strong work with material that has a depth which is beyond their life experiences so far. I especially love the simplicity and subtlety of Hayley Edwards' performance as a patient of the psychologist. This character is notionally smaller than the other three but is so important to grounding the show to our space/time continuum.
Be careful when you see The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti (the title will be explained). It is a good play and extremely well produced but take precautions because it is not a safe space.