14: Rio Saki and other falling debris

4 Apr

I’ve seen most of Shaun Charles’ plays, but somehow managed to miss Rio Saki and other falling debris, so was glad to finally get a chance to read it. (To be honest, I’ve had it in my bookshelf for ages but I bought it in a compilation with Last Drinks, a later play of Shaun’s and had forgotten I had it.)

play on desk with headphones

Rio Saki and other falling debris was written just before the millenium and first produced in 1999 at La Boite. It’s Shaun Charles’ first play and is about six young people, trying to live, love and get high four days before the end of the world. There’s a rock the size of Greenland heading for earth and no one will survive when it hits. This isn’t a play about trying to find a way to escape or to protect the earth. There are no heroes.

As you might expect, with no hope and a countdown for annihilation, order has dissolved into anarchy. Sirens blare in the background, there are screams and gunshots. People are mugged, raped and murdered but bars stay open and characters talk about mundane things amid the chaos.

The play is messy and violent: someone is poisoned and vomits blood, someone is strangled, there’s a lesbian rape scene, but none of it quite connects. The most visceral moment for me was one described happening off stage. Cathy looks out a window and watches a parade. She says:

CATHY: There’s music. Strange, weird music. Can you hear it? There’s a man holding what seems to be a dead body. A dead child I think. And I’m not sure why, but I think the child doesn’t belong to him. It isn’t his. He’s just, looking after it for awhile. And beside him there’s this woman, an old, old fat woman. (She laughs) And she doesn’t have any clothes on. And her breasts are like these two huge crusty sacks of wheat, just dangling there, useless. She’s beautiful.

I would have liked to follow these people in the parade and find out why they were there and what they were doing, rather than the rather empty main characters. The glimpse we were given of the world outside the apartments and bars was much more shocking and tantalising than the stories taking place on stage.

Publisher: Playlab Press

Cast: 3M, 3F

4 Responses to “14: Rio Saki and other falling debris”

  1. Shaun Charles April 4, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    Hey Katherine, it’s a shame you didn’t get to review it and dump shit on it in 1999. But good news it’s being done yet again this year by a small indie company in Newcastle. So those empty character will be once more fumbling around the stage. I can rustle up some comps if
    you like.

  2. Katherine Lyall-Watson April 4, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    Hi Shaun,

    Great to hear that it’s getting another production.

    “Dump shit on it”? Is that what you think I’m doing? Definitely not what I intended. Sorry if you took my comment that way. I don’t have time to write reviews of the plays I’m reading – these are impressions, first takes, honest responses to the plays I’m reading each day.

    Anyway – I hope it goes well in Newcastle.

  3. Vince Atkinson April 4, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Shaun/Katherine, Let this not deteriorate into a negative debate. From someone who was on the “inside” of that production in ’99 I can say that I had great excitement about the potential of this play. Sadly, I think the original production didn’t do it justice and the by-product of that rehearsal process was rewrites that left the characters with some gaping holes. Perhaps an actor of greater ability than I could have done a far better job with the role of Craig, but from my perspective I found it increasingly disjointed in the narrative of my character. I would disgree with Katherine’s comment that the characters are “empty”, but I would certainly say that I think their stories were a little disjointed.

    Shaun, late in the rehearsal process you and I had a very frank discussion sitting in a pub with Greg Clarke when you returned from a stint in Melbourne and I think if you cast your mind back to that conversation you may see some truth in what Katherine is saying.

    Finally, there is definitely a place for this play and it deserves productions, but I would be relying on my relationship with the writer to slip me some new scenes to tie a lot of the storyline together a little better.

    PS. I love you both dearly, now no fighting!

    • Katherine Lyall-Watson April 4, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, Vince. Sending love right back to you.

      Re-reading my post, I can see that I was too hasty. I used a qualifier in front of empty (‘rather empty’), but empty was the wrong word. The characters are filled with passion/envy/terror but my connection to them was hollow. So the emptiness came from my empathy with them on the page, which I’m quite sure would be very different in a production when the actors’ performances fill out any gaps… Hope this clarifies a little bit and takes some of the sting out of my poorly chosen word.


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