Winner of last year’s Theatre Works Melbourne Fringe Award, These Are the Isolate is restaged here as part of Theatre Works’ exciting 2011 season. Well, anyway, I’m pretty excited — they’ve got Hayloft, Duck House and more Magnormous all lined up in season one.

These Are the Isolate is the work of a young company called Mutation Theatre, and specifically the team of Katy Warner (performer, writer and winner of the 2010 Victorian Writer’s Centre Award for Best Emerging Playwright) and Tim Wotherspoon (performer and director of the 2010 version of this play). This re-staging is directed by Marcel Dorney, whose directorial chops you may also vide this May as he puts up a version of Kassandra at the VCA.

Ed McCallister (Tim Wotherspoon) comes home early from work. He has just flunked an interview for a promotion, it seems. His wife (Katy Warner) is around, maybe, with a glass of Scotch, maybe, and their son … or not. It is, to say the least, uncertain. Ed’s reality is wobbly. But one thing is clear: a terrible thing has happened.

The title comes from Sylvia Plath’s Elm:

Its snaky acids hiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults,
That kill, that kill, that kill.

So while isolation and alienation here are key, death, too, is integral. But when I saw TAI during the Fringe (and this review borrows from what I said about it then), death was far less enigmatic as an influence. The theme of suicide, specifically, was way more overt and defining.

Back then I felt this emphasis on suicide had the unfortunate effect of inhibiting the really interesting formal interrogation of that strange psychic space Katy was opening up, a space between life and death, uncertainty and certainty.

Although there is no major remodelling of the text, I think that Dorney’s staging pushes a lot of the more obvious and limiting references to suicide into the background, emphasising instead the narrative and dialogic recursions and making for an overall more satisfying experience, even as the key events in the story become less clear.

There is still a lot about this play that is frustrating. But Wotherspoon turns in another captivating performance. His performance in the original was a masterclass in handling an intimate space; here he shows that his wonderful technique can equally command the cathedral-like space at Theatre Works.

The details: These Are The Isolate plays Theatre Works in St Kilda until March 27. Tickets on the venue website.

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