Holden Street Theatres – The Studio, Thu 16 Aug.
Originally a science fiction film this current version of The Man From Earth from the Holden St. Theatres’ resident theatre group, Red Phoenix Theatre, was written by Jerome Bixby and completed in 1998.
It centres around the character of John Oldman, a university academic who has decided to move on to greener pastures. An impromptu going away gathering happens as John is loading up his ute and on a whim (it seems) he decides to share an inconvenient truth. He is 14,000 years old and dates from the Palaeolithic era!
Predictably this notion is at first dismissed as John fooling around, and some – notably the anthropologist of the group – decide to play along and brainstorm scenarios where it might be possible. John fields questions about climate, geography and disease through the ages and is sticking by his story. Now things get serious and his colleagues are variously outraged, shocked, and concerned – if what this man says is true then everything they’ve ever believed is being challenged.
The richness of this play turns on the fact that what might seem to be a ridiculously absurd claim generates an extraordinary quality of dialogue about ideas and the meaning of life. Religions, philosophies, and values are debated and compared, and John’s friends come to accept that his outrageous claim, as it is with much in life, can neither be proven or disproven. It is a question of belief. And again the wisdom of the anthropologist prevails, “I don’t have to choose to believe this or otherwise right now.”
This is seriously good entertaining theatre. A strong even performance from the large cast handles the complexities of the subject matter with ease. Andrew Horwood as Dan was wonderful as the caring and intelligent friend and colleague who was willing to entertain John’s crazy notion. Brant Eustice was perfect as the methodical, slightly eccentric probing psychiatrist charged with determining John’s sanity. Fahad Farooque essentially plays John as a just and ordinary guy; he’s smart enough and he’s learned a lot, but just because he’s lived 14,000 years doesn’t make him a charismatic leader.
I loved the direction of Robert Kimber – the impermanent nature of the set works beautifully to enhance the philosophical tenor of the discussion.
The Man From Earth continues at Holden Street Theatres – The Studio, at various times, until Sat 25 Aug.
Book at holdenstreettheatres.com. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Richard Parkhill