Theatre Australia

Chasing Pegasus – A Play In 10 Chords (VIC)
Marian Robson, Theatre Australia
(an initiative of the Independent Theatre Association)
October 20, 2006

As a director who has just commenced a year’s sabbatical, I have begun making the effort to attend various fringe and independent theatre productions, being interested to see what the emerging generation of theatre practitioners are up to. Knowing that this Incognita are a new independent theatre company on the Mornington Peninsula (where I am currently staying with friends), I decided to see for myself what their debut production was like and so went along to see the show last night (Thursday) to see if the production lived up to it’s rather overt publicity campaign.

“Chasing Pegasus – a play in 10 chords” is a journey through a myriad of examples of the human condition, neatly tied up in the innocent-looking package of a weekly Book Club meeting.

Ten people are meeting at the Serendipity Book Shop to discuss the bestseller “Chasing Pegasus”. The various characters include a deaf girl, a housewife, a paraplegic, two teenagers, the book shop owner and her assistant, a high school teacher, an ex-singer and the celebrated author whose work they’re there to discuss.

The play begins in the usual way – and is actually quite amusing, which gives the false impression that we’re about to enjoy a fairly standard night of theatre in the comedy/drama vein.

But that quickly changes as the deaf girl suddenly breaks into monologue – she begins it as if it’s part of the dialogue, and actually got a laugh with her first line, but then we begin to realise that this is but one of the many clever directorial touches that make this play so unique and so enjoyable.

Somehow the characters manage to begin their monologues without us realising that they are. This is a great staging technique as it keeps the play flowing from dialogue to monologue – there is no indication that the individual characters are about to speak to the audience – “breaking the fourth wall” – they just suddenly start to speak to us and we’re hooked from their first sentence.

A neat parallel is therefore drawn between how these characters show one face to the world and then show their true face to us, the audience. The result is a highly engaging and, at times, confronting, night of theatre that makes a strong statement about what it is to be human.

The cast were all strong performers, playing their well-drawn characters with truth and believability, but the standouts were Charity Shaw (“Abby”) – who spoke, signed and lip-read so convincingly, I was surprised to discover that she wasn’t actually deaf, Sarah Penn (“Imelda”) who found just the right emotional balance required to tell a tragic story under the influence of prescribed drugs – a tough call for any performer – and yet remained delightfully vague throughout all the dialogue sequences, Peter Flaherty (“Andrew”) who played the paraplegic character with great larrikinism and cheerfulness, yet let us see the more vulnerable side of this condition towards the end of his monologue, which truly broke your heart and Sally McLean (“Katherine”) who drew an achingly beautiful and entirely convincing portrait of a woman in crisis and conflict, caught between her love for and abject fear of a brutal husband.

Another standout was Jennifer Hansen (previously known to audiences as Newsreader for Channel 10), who played the author “Franklin” with great grace, strength and passion. Her final monologue was delivered with such truth and conviction that I wanted to stand and cheer at the end.

The extremely well-written script was ably backed by excellent lighting and sound and the set and props were well designed and utilised with great attention to detail. Mt Martha House is ideally suited to this production – creating an intimate theatre space with great atmosphere – which made you feel like you were actually part of the action and pulled you into the stories being told.

Written and directed by Sally McLean, “Chasing Pegasus – a play in 10 chords” is an engaging, beautifully written and staged night of theatre that doesn’t disappoint. It is well worth the (very reasonable) ticket price and the cast and production team should be very proud of their work. The production I saw last evening would very ably hold it’s own on any of our professional stages and I look forward to seeing more from this innovative young company.