Lennox Theatre, April 7


Peter Cook is a brave actor and a braver writer. In essence, his one-man play is about his pathway to being in that play; one strewn with the road-spikes and riddled with the potholes of addiction. The main character, Dave, is an actor whose career was derailed by the need to find a way to cope.

It’s confronting stuff. Whether you’ve been addictive yourself, or have known someone who is, you’ll recognise the cold horrors. A crucial point being made is that the crime is not addiction: the crime is addiction being made a crime. As Dave says near the end, addicts are not intrinsically bad people for seeking solace in escape. In a more openly didactic moment, he states, “You don’t need to punish addicts. The hell of addiction is a punishment in itself.”

Peter Cook. Photos supplied.

Cook’s non-linear play jumps from binging on ice, coke and booze to being in rehab in Thailand; from auditioning for roles (including failing to land the part of a cockroach in a Mortein ad) to trying to evade imagined hitmen under a drug-induced, sleep-deprived psychosis. It contains a massively demanding role for Cook: 90 minutes of multiple characters, big speeches and some intensely physical acting.

The script leaves much to the director, and Caroline Stacey (artistic director of Canberra’s The Street company) excels in solving the problems of constant transitions of time and space with clarity and fluidity, and in marshalling Cook’s energies as a performer. All other elements of the production contribute to the success, too. Imogen Keen’s set is a giant, distorted rhomboid that could represent an ice crystal, the granite hardness of the world, or an iceberg adrift on an ocean of possibilities. Gerry Corcoran’s lighting has some “wow!” moments more usual in rock concerts than plays, yet which are entirely apt, as when, during another audition that Dave fails miserably, he is blasted by two intersecting beams of light, like being caught in the crosshairs of a rifle. Kimmo Vennonen’s sound design, meanwhile, helps make the one-man show so three-dimensional.

In some ways the four-star rating is slightly generous, as there are still some lumps in the writing and some holes in the performance, but brave theatre with minor flaws beats safe mediocrity any day.