Helicopter, part of the Melbourne Theatre Company's 2012 Education Season, opens with two actors positioned on an empty and starkly designed set. Something has happened. Something which, it becomes quickly obvious, will change everything, perhaps forever. Something bad. Commissioned by MTC and developed with the assistance of Playwriting Australia, Helicopter was written by the award-winning Angela Betzien. In this latest work Betzien has created a dark satire which aims to show the disconnection of many modern Western families from the realities of life.
Jack, played MTC debutant Charles Grounds, has been born to wealthy but emotionally distant parents. His mother, played by Daniela Farinacci, prefers to perform her parental duties to Jack and his sister respectively through dispensing money while ignoring her son's concerning tendencies and religiously checking the baby monitor instead of spending any real time with her daughter. Meanwhile Jack's father, played by Wiflred's Paul Denny, works for a pharmaceutical company and has a tendency to self-medicate with prescription drugs and alcohol.
Despite he and his sister living next door ever since their arrival as refugees from Southern Sudan several years prior, Jack's family had never given a thought to speaking to their neighbour Thomas. However, after a tragic accident, the family slowly starts to learn about a life very different from their own. Terry Yeboah as Thomas makes his debut for MTC in brilliant form. Throughout the course of Helicopter he deftly manages to combine humour with great sadness, creating a window into a life that most of us will never know.
The relationship between Jack's family and Thomas, and his own relationship with both his parents and reality, play out over the course of Helicopter, as it nears its unexpected and sudden end. The actors are all talented and capable, and the primary plot is interesting and engaging. However in several places it feels like Betzien and director Leticia Caceres have tried to do too much. Subplots are started but never continued, some themes are quite weak, and the use of sound is only occassionally effective. All in all however Helicopter is an entertaining and thought-provoking addition to the 2012 Education Season which will provide students and other theatre-goers with an enjoyable and interesting theatre experience.
BY JOSH FERGEUS
Helicopter is currently showing at the MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio until Friday August 17.