At the Hamilton Fringe Festival 2021, Plot Hole Company presents their absurdist, gross-out comedy, The Container. Set in the near future, society is falling apart from financial inequality, ecological disaster and a global pandemic. And here we have, essentially, the set-up for a punch-line: at The End of the World, an Anarchist, a Capitalist and an Opportunist board a shipping container…
We open on a shifty human smuggler, arranging to send our three main characters away to an off-shore commune where society can be rebuilt. Each of these characters is a type, representing some aspect of humanity that has led to society’s collapse. And they speak in platitudes about big ideas like Materialism!
I recognize that this is not trying to be nuanced or sophisticated, but neither did it engage me on whatever level it I think it was meant to.
I can get on-board for goofy stories with cartoonish performances. Thing is, I have to be able to invest in some sort of reality, no matter how outlandish. The elements of production must suspend my disbelief.
The set is a good place to start. It’s totally fine that we don’t get a realistic, detailed shipping container on stage. But I have to, at least, see it in my mind’s eye. Perhaps no physical representation at all might have worked better than the jagged, partial corners here that, in the static shots of the stage, look kind of like miniature icebergs.
The actors also frequently walk out of the area defined by these set pieces, breaking any fragile sense of place they might have suggested. And, though they have some stage business to help them through some moments, they rarely know what to do with their bodies.
I won’t spoil the big gross-out factor of this production, but I will try to explain—in the abstract—why it didn’t have its intended affect on me. If you are going to show me a realistic prop, and have that prop, um, delivered realistically…then I have to be shown clear actions that suggests that the character has, uh, removed any barrier to the successful delivery of that prop.
I’m sure there are folks who aren’t the least bit concerned with whether or not I consider this “good theatre” and will enjoy The Container on its own terms. I think this sort of production, though, is best appreciated in-person, with the energy of an enthusiastic audience there to share it. Here though, there is a hollowness where that warmth should be.