With sizable doses of unwanted pregnancy, unrequited love, betrayal, rape, isolation, broken friendships and the threat of nervous breakdown, it’s probably safe to say that ‘By Travis Parkinson’ is heavy viewing. Performed last year for the Verge Festival and intended as a soap opera of tragedy and heartbreak, the action centres on a group of six friends who are thrust into an emotional vortex of ever deepening discontent, loneliness and abandonment.
Travis, the narrator, seems to have firm control over his reality and relationships at the beginning of the piece. As his friends succumb to adversity, however, Travis finds himself disconnected from reality and spiralling into a destructive pattern of self-analysis and existentialism. Musical interludes and rapid scene changes act to transform the stage into a reflection of the chaos of modern relationships; volatile, prone to change and inevitably out of our control.
Ryan Knight’s writing strengths lay in the tense silences and uncomfortable duologues between Gavin (Niklas Fischer) and Travis (Xavier Holt), as well as Todd (Jack Ballhausen) and Ash (Bridget Haberecht). Obvious standouts in a cast of six talented and captivating actors were Niklas Fischer as Gavin, Travis’ long-suffering partner, and Bridget Haberecht as Ash, who watches on as Todd blindly obsesses over Amy (Julia Robertson). Both Gavin and Ash provide the comedic beats necessary to let the audience breathe.
The only minor disappointment of ‘By Travis Parkinson’ is, perhaps ironically, Travis Parkinson. In a similar vein to Shakespeare’s soliloquys, Travis acts as an emotional compass for the play with lengthy and ‘philosophical’ monologues which intentionally breach the fourth wall. Rather than providing insight into an observably conflicted character, however, such monologues sound a tad too much like an angst-ridden 17-year-old’s diary. Travis (Holt) only manages to regain lost authenticity through his interaction with Gavin (Fischer).
Knight has written an exhaustive catalogue of human drama that endeavours to strip the emotional masks of each character away and honestly display, through raw confrontation, their faults and vulnerability. As SUDS enters its 125th anniversary year, ‘By Travis Parkinson’ is, despite its tragedy, a celebration of how theatre has developed into an arena of honesty and reflection.
Anyone wanting to step into the abyss of six tormented, yet endearing, lovers and friends should come along to Studio B on Saturday the 1st of February at 8pm.