Pinball is a sprawling narrative revolving around one premise – a divorced couple fighting over custody of their son. Although seemingly simple, it’s the multitude of contributing factors that make this story highly relevant in its production as part of the 2014 Mardi Gras Festival.
It’s the early 1980s. After the bra burnings of the late ’60s, women’s rights remain a divisive issue. Entangled in the feminist ‘debate’ are the concepts of divorce and same-sex relationships.
Theenie (Karoline O’Sullivan) is a young mother. Divorced and currently in a romantic relationship with another woman, she finds herself at odds with those who’d prefer she remained a dutiful mother and obedient wife. Challenging not only the father of her child but also her family, a bigoted judge and centuries of tradition, she is forced to fight to be a part of her son’s life. Theenie’s opposition is unwavering in her persistent hope that wisdom, dignity, tolerance and love will shine through.
The two-hour running time of this performance is a little overblown, especially when considering the time the story strands take to meaningfully overlap. Nonetheless the cast are extremely competent in their mostly multiple roles. Among the standouts are Theenie’s new girlfriend Axis, played here with wit and empathy by Emma Louise. Also impressive is John Michael Burdon, jumping between five characters with chameleon-like ability, skillfully accentuating the unique, physical comedy of each role (with a little help from the fashion of the day).
Shockingly prejudiced remarks taken from real-life custody cases of the time are cleverly interwoven into the script. Such comments are made all the more disturbing when considered alongside the fact that they were made only 30 years ago.
Pinball is a solid, entertaining effort that serves as a reminder of the fundamental changes in human freedoms over the years while also highlighting the continued existence of this intolerance.
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