FRINGE TWENTY17: Well Mannered @ The Blue Room Theatre

By Freya Parr 

Brought to us by artists from WAAPA’s Bachelor of Performance Making course, Well Mannered is an absurdist play addressing the regrets we have from our youth and how we deal with them. Grace, Wendy and Jason as children abandoned a man who was trapped in a well, and as they grow up they wrap themselves in denial. Desperately clinging to rituals such as their annual family dinner party, they ignore the fact that they are indirectly the cause of an innocent man’s death.

Although the concepts are initially strong and suck us into the action, as the storyline unfolds the absurdism takes over too strongly, and the meaning is somewhat lost. The pacing and progression of the narrative is also too slow in parts, meaning that the audience’s focus wavers.

The piece shows real promise in some respects, with shadow puppetry and physical theatre implemented in some scenes. However, it is used fairly fleetingly, feeling like it’s been placed there to try and incorporate some unusual theatrical techniques, rather than seamlessly blending with the rest of the narrative.

Well Mannered ends in an extremely surreal manner, with the bones of the man from the well being brought to life. Although this fits in with the gothic horror style of writing, it lacks the punch needed to summarise the morals of the narrative. The concepts of keeping up appearances with manners being held in higher regard than honesty and integrity and facing up to one’s mistakes should be rearticulated towards the end. Instead, the audience left feeling bemused and struggling to work out the “point” of the production.

A performance with promise, but honing of the script and staging is definitely required to make it more of an impactful piece of theatre.

Well Mannered appeared as part of Fringe World.