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Pompeii, LA

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Picture Los Angeles. The landmarks of Hollywood Hills, Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach. Picture studio sound stages, trembling dreamers, and a car crash somewhere in the spaghetti of the city’s highways and you will come close to Declan Greene’s vision of Los Angeles in the bleak but breathtaking Pompeii, L.A.

In this L.A., the plight of the child star—loved, exploited, discarded—stands in for a general cultural malaise, the expenditure of the individual in a world of “pure capital,” as Greene’s and director Matthew Lutton’s joint program notes explain. This is a grim view but it resonates with the familiar tabloid tragedies of many a child star, some of whom appear (as fragmented selves) in Greene’s script—including a genial Judy Garland (Belinda McClory) and an addled Dana Plato (Anna Samson).

To describe the play’s three distinct acts in detail is to risk too many spoilers, but there is a shift from a satirical Hollywood fantasia in the first act to the macabre naturalism of the final scenes. The ensemble cast—which also includes Greg Stone, Luke Ryan, Tony Nikolakopoulos, and David Harrison as an unnamed, symptomatic child star—drift in and out of various roles, scenes and timelines.

The fragmented form is crucial to the production’s apocalyptic vision. Like T.S. Eliot’s modernist poem “The Wasteland,” the discontinuous web of textures, images, and pop-cultural references is used to represent the Western city as a place of inertia and decay.

While the form itself splinters, the writing, direction and Nick Schlieper’s stunning design coalesce successfully. The feverish pitch with which these characters hurl themselves through the dialogue can sometimes overwhelm and displace, but everything serves to remind us this is no Hollywood fairytale.

Pompeii, L.A. is playing at Malthouse Theatre until December 9.
For more information and tickets visit: www.malthousetheatre.com.au


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