James Hazelden’s Dead Technology Memoirs is about murder, obsession, lies and time travel. Kind of. The series of three fifteen minute plays is on at La Mama as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, so at its heart lies humour. Diabolical, Theoretical and Prototypical are semi discrete stories that address life’s absurdity in the most out there of scenarios.
Diabolical, the opening play, debuted as part of last year’s Short and Sweet Festival. It won awards for best new work, best new writing, and best actor, so it’s unsurprisingly that it’s the strongest of the three pieces. Chris Saxton and Nicholas Roy build a nervous tension, their dynamic hilarious by nature of its awkwardness. The pair have good comic timing, and the laughs are consistent and rapid. The set is minimal and the costumes well chosen, indicative of the characters yet generic enough to maintain the strange location-less and timelessness of the piece.
Theoretical and Prototypical are not as strong, and part of this is because of their lack of endings. All three plays have ambiguous or totally open ending. It’s a common technique in short play writing, a means of avoiding having to tie up each narrative thread in a small amount of time. It’s something that works for melodrama, but when you place three inconclusive absurd plays next to each other, it sticks out uncomfortably. Each twist and turn is foreshadowed and guessable, yet it is hard to project out beyond the end. Perhaps if Hazelden was a lesser writer there’d be less of an issue, but there are so many interesting lines and developments that it’s frustrating they don’t come to fruition. This is especially true of Prototypical, which seems more like the first act of a full length theatre piece than a fifteen minute short.
Saxton and Roy are definitely the strongest of the six actors. They are comfortable letting the writing deliver the laughs, providing effective straight men to the script’s funny man. It seemed almost wasteful to have the other actors there at all; a series in which Roy and Saxton played each character would create a more dynamic performance and a stronger sense of unity and disunity between plays.
Dead Technology Memoirs is a fun detour from the usual Melbourne International Comedy Festival fare, humorous enough to sweep the audience up and distract them from the predictability of each piece, but not enough to satisfy the unfinished narratives.
Dead Technology Memoirs is on at La Mama Theatre at 6:30pm from April 2nd until April 12th. Tickets $20 and $15 concession, and are available online or from the La Mama box office.