The first question, one has to ask oneself, is, does the world need another tale about self-indulgent tantrums within a rock ‘n’ roll band?
I think that Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and Metallica’s “Some kind of monster” covered that ground well enough to last me the rest of my life. For me, Riflemind was just more of the same old stuff that I have come to expect from this genre. Lots of shouted repetitive circular argument about the emptiness and grind of being “at the top” of the game. I found it very hard to care about a single character in the whole play, let alone engage in the story.
The play centres around the group dynamic of the members of the once famous band “Riflemind” , wanting to go back on tour. The play takes place at John’s (the band leader) house. John, played with relish by Hugo Weaving, shares a house with his “yoga zombie” Wife, Lyn (played by Susan Prior). From the very get go, it is obvious that John is a self absorbed bastard, who enjoys inflicting mental cruelty on his basket case wife as they both try and stay clean, off drugs. I have to admit though, that after watching Prior’s over acting, I felt that John’s demeanor seemed justified.
After a nasty bit of sniping at each other, John and Lyn are joined by the band’s drummer, Moon (played by Steve Rogers) and his friend, a young guitarist called Lee (played by Ewen Porter). Steve Rogers makes a decent fist of his stereotypical drummer character, serving as a verbal punching bag for John.
The other band members of Riflemind fly in by helicopter. There is the band’s manager, Sam (played by Jeremy Sims), John’s brother Phil (played by Marton Csokas) and his bitchy blonde groupie wife Cindy (played by Susie Porter). John welcomes all his guests with an egalitarian surliness and then storms off to the pub with Moon and Lee. While John is off at the pub, the remaining band members try and make sense of Lyn. Lynn who it would seem hasn’t been socialising very much lately, finds it all a little bit too much, dashes out of the house and goes on a drug binge. Phill leaves his wife Cindy and the band manager Sam behind as he goes to look for John. It is at this juncture in the play that we find out that Cindy and Sam have been having a sexual liaison, and we are treated to some comical gratuitous simulated sex. Jeremy Sims is quite believable as an ageing and needy Essex boy, whilst Susie Porter plays the part of a jaded and disinterested piece of jet trash to the hilt.
Basically, the first act mostly consisted of churlish behavior and shouting. By intermission, I was wondering whether or not I’d bother to watch the second act as I didn’t care a fig for any of the characters and I didn’t care how it all ended.
After more yelling and shouting, we find that the band still has what it takes. But will John and Lyn’s relationship survive the band getting back together again. Who cares? I didn’t and I’d say neither did most of the audience. The play was damned with polite and light applause that petered out after the second bow.
On the whole the play reminded me of an experience I had when I was in Spain. I was camping at a campground in Madrid, opposite a large Spanish family, who are preparing paella. I watched jealously as I saw beautiful ingredients being put into the paella pan. Fresh fish, shrimp, octopus and shellfish slowly cooked with saffron rice. It looked and smelt fantastic. The family must have noticed my interest, and with typical Spanish hospitality they invited me to join them. I can remember thinking to myself about how good it was all going to taste as I walked over. Yep, you guessed it! It was absolutely disgusting. I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to turn all those beautiful ingredients into an inedible mess.