Ad Nauseam: A Night Of Infidelity
A relative newcomer to Melbourne’s theatre scene, Attic Erratic has quickly established itself among Australia’s growing ranks of promising, young independent theatre companies. Their latest show, Ad Nauseam: A Night of Infidelity has just finished an extremely successful season at Adelaide’s Fringe Festival, succeeding in achieving that golden balance of critical acclaim and happy audiences. Tom Pitts, the brain child behind this production, is excited to be back in Melbourne to show his hometown what all the fuss is about.
Like all young theatre heads, Tom Pitts headed off to Monash University with dreams of becoming the greatest actor Australia has ever produced. But like most young theatre heads, he quickly discovered his passion lay more in writing and production than dominating centre stage. “Everyone wants to be an actor originally, then goes in and realises it’s probably not going to happen,” Tom jokes. Pitt is just being modest though, because he is an actor. And a writer, and a composer, a director, a choreographer, a musician. In Ad Nauseam, he also acts as the shows sound engineer. With skills like that, what else can one do but start up a theatre company with fellow theatrical prodigies?
So in 2009, that’s exactly what he did. Getting together with best friend and fellow writer Giuliano Ferla, and artistic directors Celeste Cody and Danny Delahunty, Attic Erratic was born. The company was established with a clear goal of creating fresh, original work. “I mean it’s grown over the years,” Pitts reflects, “as we worked out what we wanted to do, and what we were capable of doing. But it really focuses on developing new work, and there’s obviously a heavy text aspect there.” That heavy text aspect is apparent in works like Ad Nauseam and Christina (a previous show which has recently been nominated for a Green Room Award) which were both written as monologues.
However Pitts has been a musician for a lot longer than he’s been a writer, and he soon developed an interest in music in theatre. Not musical theatre, he wants to make that clear, but the music in theatre. He’s particularly intrigued with the idea that music has the ability to tell the audience how they should be feeling based on pacing and instrument variation. Pitts explains, “[With music in performance] a lot of people feel that their reactions to the performance are governed by the music. They might want to see it a certain way, but they’ve got this cadence going forwards and back, so they can’t relate to it how they would perhaps want to. But I guess that’s the point, trying to create an atmosphere, and make an audience feel a certain way with the sound.”
Of course, there’s more to Ad Nauseam than just the music. For example, the script. Ad Nauseam has been a work in progress for as long as Attic Erratic has existed. In the final year of his studies, Tom decided to put his writing talent together with his interest in music; developing the text and accompanying music of Ad Nauseam for his honours project. A somewhat true account of a typical alcohol-fuelled night out in Melbourne – a night lacking in inhibitions and fidelity – the script was originally written as a 30-minute monologue excerpt. Over the years, Ad Nauseam has slowly developed and grown into what it is today. In fact, Pitts says, the show still changes slightly from night to night.
Ad Nauseum is set in an environment that every person over 16 (and that’s being generous) is familiar with: an inebriated night out “on the prowl” as it were, with a few friends who will invariably lead you astray in every possible way. As our protagonist – brought to life by up-and-coming actor Nick Bendall – soon finds out, when you’re in a committed relationship, that misbehaviour too commonly ends in infidelity. Tom thinks the story of Ad Nauseam may be uncomfortably relatable to a lot of people. ”I think that everyone’s familiar with it. I guess the piece sort of tries to pose the argument that while at times he’s an arrogant prick, [the protagonist is] just really like anybody else. He says that to the audience, ‘this could happen to anyone because you are like me.’”
Pitts acknowledges that the storyline is a simple one, but the way the character is written and so endearingly portrayed is one of the shows biggest successes. “I mean the storyline is a guy that goes out and cheats on his girlfriend and regrets it. There’s not much to it. But I think people enjoy it because [the character is] so scathing. He’s a bit of a smart ass, he’s arrogant, and he offends a whole lot of minority groups and doesn’t give a shit because he’s too cool. And I think people like that, they can relate to that.”
Ad Nauseam attempts to appeal to the darkest aspects of our personalities, and with the successes the show has had to date, those attempts appear to be working. Solely writing the show’s entire script and accompanying music in itself speaks volume about Pitts’ talent and drive. And in a rapidly growing theatre scene that seems to be sprouting new talents and new independent companies every day, Pitts and Attic Erratic are undoubtedly set to be one of the big success stories. Watch this space.
BY KATE MCCARTEN
Ad Nauseam: A Night of Infidelity is showing from March 21 until April 1 at La Mama Courthouse Theatre. Visit atticerratic.com for more information.