“A show bursting with acting talent”
In a scathing commentary on western practices of consumption and living above one’s means, “Consumption” follows the tragic story of Sebastian, as the ins-and-outs of money, life and love threaten to swallow the unfortunate hero whole in a sea of fake smiles and credit card bills.
And what a tragic hero he is – Mark Wallington absolutely steals the show with his portrayal of seething, raw emotion, resulting in what was the most accurate representation of a man pushed to breaking point I’ve seen on stage. And Grace Bussey should be given praise for her portrayal of self-absorbed stand-in for the upper classes, Penelope: it takes skill to portray a character so viscerally unpleasant, and she does so magnificently. This is a show bursting with acting talent: every cast member pulled their own weight beautifully, and never missed a beat.
Of course, these character portrayals were benefited greatly by the Consumption’s surprisingly realistic dialogue. Whilst some of the more abstract portions of the show may be further removed from reality, the conversations between characters sounded very, very real – I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear some of them in the street. Joanne Griffiths stands up to her considerable writing credentials in this respect, and captures the spoken word with uncanny accuracy.
However, these strengths were overshadowed by weaknesses with the show’s plot, which oscillated wildly between intriguing and ridiculous. Whilst the message is admirable, it’s execution was sloppy: the jibes at western overconsumption weren’t so much on the nose as they were lodged somewhere in the frontal lobe. This was cemented by a major plot point near the end of the second act which ultimately had no consequence, no build-up, and no reason to exist other than to be a neon finger saying “Look at the evil overconsumption hath wrought”.
For a show which portrays its characters with such realism, it seemed so utterly removed from reality that it was nearly comical, betraying the dramatic tension so thick in the first act – and proving an infuriating waste of an otherwise excellent script.
Consumption’s cast should be congratulated on their stellar character work, in what was no doubt a tough show to put together and even tougher to pull off. It’s a shame that certain narrative elements marred it so greatly, especially in a script which showed such promise. With a few more revisions, I’m sure Griffiths’ admirable message can shine in the light it deserves.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 12 August)
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