Gold Coast, Theatre503

by Laura Kressly

It’s 2003 and Joe has returned to the UK after seeing combat in Iraq. He’s so traumatised he can barely speak, and his wife Ros doesn’t know how to help him. An infant daughter and trouble finding a job are added pressures as he tries to reintegrate into society as a functional human being. Time passes and his mental health deteriorates, but the poor script and production fails to serve the impact of PTSD underlying the play.

Though the non-linear and intergenerational script provides context to Joe’s struggle, the device is more potent in it’s reminder that depression can be hereditary. Unfortunately, both the script and Joe’s performance are vague manifestations of emotional constipation. We see his symptoms and know a bit about the cause, but his attempts at recovery are stifled.

The direction is often clumsy and has a hard time dealing with the super-short, episodic scenes. Transitions are mechanical and too long, though a calendar indicating the year is a helpful, if simplistic device.

The narrative is lumpy with too much left out, giving the sense that writer Louise Gooding doesn’t know what story she wants to tell or how to best tell it. This effects the performances, leading them to be generalised. There is one particularly lovely choice, though – an abandoned Joe finds Lisa’s left behind toy and finally begins to tell it his story. Unfortunately, the impact this little pink, bunny has on him is brushed over in a rush to get to the end.

Gooding certainly has worthy, if unclear, ideals for this script. But a significant overhaul is needed to give it potency. More detail and a sharper focus will go a long way.

Gold Coast runs through 17 February.

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