Lachlan Philpott wrote Colder after a close friend (Simon Knight) went missing and didn’t come back. In his play, David is a gay man in his mid thirties who has been missing once before, when he was seven.
At that time, David and his mother were atDisneyland, queuing for a ride. Past and present weave together throughout Colder as the action shifts from David’s first disappearance to his second, possibly permanent one.
There’s his mother, Robyn, played at 33, frantic in Disneyland and also at 59, a woman trying to keep things safe by locking them in Tupperware. There’s his best friend Kay, pregnant and alone. There’s his latest lover, Ed, and a parade of one-night stands.
The language is densely poetic, sentences overlap and different characters in different times finish off each other’s thoughts.
ED/ROBYN59: Will all these questions help
ED: I don’t know what was going on all I know is that he has …
KAY: That David isn’t anywhere to be found. We’ve called, we’ve looked we’ve searched and he has gone.
There’s also repetition to reinforce the musical rhythm of the language.
ROBYN59: I stare at her. Blink and wait for things to go back to colour.
ED: I stare at her and wait for him to jump out from behind something and laugh
KAY: Stare at her and wait for the colour that drained to return.
ED: Stare as she fiddles with a pen
ROBYN59: Hear her breath shorten, as the gap between when I asked and when she answers stretches out forever.
Colder is almost a radio play in its lyric description and lack of physical action. David is an enigma, his monologue near the end of the play raising more questions than it answers. Readers and audiences will strive to solve the puzzle because we can’t bear the loose strings, the not knowing. But in the real world most puzzles aren’t resolved. Some people disappear and never come back.
The closest we get to finding out what happened to David at the theme park is this, a few sentences sandwiched in another conversation, easy to miss:
DAVID: If I am away for a little while it won’t matter, while you are losing something in your bag, while you are rummaging for something in your pocket while you are humming something in your mouth while you are grimacing at the sun shielding your eyes and checking the map. Just a few steps.
Did he walk away and hide or was he taken when he left his mother’s side? Like his mother, we never know what happened to David in the theme park and, like everyone who loves him, we never know what happened to him as an adult. His mother’s desperate pledge is just words, weighted only by breath and longing…
ROBYN33: I will rip out my eyes and glue them to your feet to follow you everywhere you could go.
Cast: 3F, 3M