Review: Robert in Crisis, Brown’s Mart Theatre (NT)

A timely exploration of a particular kind of maleness that entertains even as its protagonist hurtles towards the abyss.
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Robert in Crisis is a timely exploration of a particular kind of maleness. Robert epitomises Mr Normal Nice Guy; he has a loving wife, loving children, a lovely house. He’s even a real estate agent, selling lovely houses to other lovely people. Life is good – until he’s hit with a truth that de-rails him and sets him hurtling towards a dark realm.

Robert, played by writer/performer Scott Gooding, is a likeable character, addressing the audience with warmth and humour and commenting on his own feelings of inadequacy. He casually pours a line of salt between himself and the audience and gradually the work starts to enter the confessional zone as we see Mr Nice Guy unravel.

A compelling confession that entertains as Robert hurtles towards the abyss, this play is full of witty inversions of contemporary language and 90’s music. It’s intriguing and engaging as we wonder what will happen to Robert; will he succumb to the monstrous or can he save himself?

The metaphor of the monstrous and the undead is playful and comic. It is not hard to sit and listen to his story but this play is actually a brave foray into the world of male depression. It is suddenly very easy to see how violence becomes an answer and almost inevitable.

Gooding’s writing is powerful and surprising. There are sudden leaps into other worlds that at first had me wondering if this Fringe work was about to become a sci-fi oddity. It cleverly seeks to engage with an audience who need to hear about Robert’s experiences.

The design is sparse, packing a punch with only a table, a line of salt and the actor.

Jessie Davis’ lighting design comes out of darkness and so echoes the theme of the work. Davis creates visually interesting tableax with light and dark and enlivens and compartmentalises the stage space as Robert moves between casually chatting to the audience, re-enacting his own experiences, and portraying other characters. There are moments where the line between actor and character blurs.

Gooding’s delivery echoes the race track speed of his character’s journey and is supported by the music of Powderfinger amongst others. I wanted more of the 90’s music.

Robert in Crisis is an excellent piece of theatre that deserves a long life, perhaps a life as long as a vampire’s but I don’t want to give too much away…

4 stars: ★★★★                      

Robert in Crisis
A Vicious Fish Theatre production for Darwin Fringe
Written and performed by Scott Gooding
Director: Hayley Butcher
Designer: Emily Collett
Lighting Design: Jessie Davis
Brown’s Mart Theatre, Darwin
6 July and 13 – 14 July 2019
$18 – $25

Nicola Fearn
About the Author
Nicola Fearn has worked in professional theatre as a performer, writer, teacher and director since 1980. She is Artistic Director of Darwin-based company Business Unusual (BUU). As well as being a regular on the Darwin arts scene, Nicky works in the UK with Horse and Bamboo Theatre, one of the UK’s leading visual companies and with mask company Vamos. She was co-founder of Skin and Blisters (London 1987-1991), a circus theatre company that toured major festivals in Europe and the UK.