[The following contains spoilers.]
So I’m in the big Underbelly belly this afternoon for the Ugly Collective’s “Some Big Some Bang,” which is written by Dimitris Chimonas. The play deals us what looks like a familiar kind of a hand, but we soon find ourselves following a different, altogether wilder game, with rules which cannot be immediately picked up.
We begin with all the accoutrements of the classical dinner party drama (i.e. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Abigail’s Party, Festen), with family members whose unresolved pasts and bourgeois dissatisfaction are stamped all over their grim faces. Tom (Rory Keys) is dashing and slippery, with an uneasy Jack Nicholson grin. His pregnant wife Eleanor (Gabrielle Sheppard) is in a state of passive-aggressive mutiny against him and her pregnancy, pointedly smoking and lugging around huge boxes. Tom’s brother Will (Russell Chadwick) and Will’s wife Anya (Livia Rita) arrive for a dinner party. It is a year since Tom and Will’s mother died. Eleanor resents the dead mother-in-law and she doesn’t want her picture on the walls of the house.
Imperceptibly but very rapidly “Some Big Some Bang” slides into madcap absurdism. Eleanor gives birth, apparently just after the main course. Then pudding is forgotten as we plunge into a new menu of marital estrangement, wife-swapping, and infanticide. The bourgeois diners are now referring openly to the theatre and the audience. There is also disco dancing and little surrealist tableaux of flower munching and orange squeezing. The story may be mauled to the point of nonsense but it is still kept peculiarly intact and functional. It has grown fatuous in a high, keen, almost operatic tone. There is a lot of deadpan on stage, but it never registers a hairline crack or comes under any detectable strain. The desperate arguments and anguish are played as straight as Ibsen.
The energetic cast brings freshness and a certain sex-appeal to a largely clownish show which, at least on paper, might appear complacent or like a one-joke play. “Some Big Some Bang” duly resembles a trundling theatrical contraption which has been oiled to run entirely noiselessly by its cast. Nonetheless, this play cannot really be choreographed and spontaneous at the same time. Although it runs perfectly slickly, it might have acquired a necessary sense of danger had it proceeded with more looseness and improv. Or else, the play might have given us more of a jump had it stuck with its po-faced dinner party for a while longer.
“And why are there cats on the poster?” Eleanor shrieks in the middle of a particularly heart-rending rant. Why, indeed, are there cats on the poster? It warns the audience that this is not a serious drama but it might also let its true identity out of the bag.