It is not often that rehearsed readings are reviewed! But this is a little more than a ‘reading’ …
The Disappearance is a ‘double adaptation’! It is based on the book The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear by Kin Platt in 1968 and Baxter, the 1973 screenplay of the book written by Reginald Rose. Director Les Solomon first directed the play in 1976 at the Wayside Chapel and for a youth theatre production in 1991.
When he found and read an old copy of the play recently, he realised that the theme resounded even more clearly today than perhaps it did forty years ago when mental health issues were not so readily discussed or diagnosed, especially in relation to young people.
The Disappearance is about Roger Baxter, a teenager suffering from a speech disorder and emotional issues following the divorce of his callous parents and his mother’s decision to relocate to a different city. Despite being befriended by some understanding tenants, his mother’s continuing insensitivity and neglect cause Roger to ‘disappear’ into a schizophrenic withdrawal that requires hospitalisation.
In this adaptation Solomon moves Roger and his mother from America to an apartment in Sydney – so the relocation is even more disorientating and his ‘alone-ness’ more distressing.
Despite the disturbing theme, the play has moments of gentle humour and compassion, and Solomon’s cast have, in only eight days, brought this rehearsed ‘reading’ to a moving single night performance.
Gordon Vignelles performs a touchingly real portrayal of Roger, a portrayal that reaches beyond ‘reading’ to find the tortured loneliness of a young man crying out for understanding in an atmosphere of scorn and abuse, perpetrated by his mother Stella, played by Norah George.
Tayman Jamae depicts both his obnoxious father and Mr Rawling, a sadistic teacher. Nicola Bartholemew is Nemmo, the girl across from his apartment who watches him through her telescope and becomes his friend. Felicity Beale and David Hooley bring joy to his life as kind, caring Chris Bentley and Roger Tunnell.
When things become too much, and Roger begins to withdraw, he is protected by Dr Clemm, played with patient compassion by Katrina Retallick.
Liam Faulkner Dimond narrates the ‘reading’ as well as providing original music that, with lighting effects by Sean Clarke, emphasises the fact that the evening is much more than a ‘rehearsed reading’ – in fact one that Solomon feels may become a full scale production.
Watch this space!