Emeric Fontal

Wed 22nd February 2012


Jason Zhao

at 09:52 on 23rd Feb 2012



Welcome to the world of Emeric Fontal! Here bowler hats and existentialist overcoats reign supreme, drinking milk and consuming dairy products are a sign of immense cowardice and all everybody wears is black, black, black. It is a play that tries to make comedy out of film noir, and fails – utterly.

Emeric Fontal has two elements to it, attempted comedy and attempted seriousness. Emeric Fontal is unique in the way it aims for comedy and seriousness at the same time, or precisely speaking, in the very same scene. Moments of seriousness are immediately followed and preceded by moments of comedy. The result is something that is neither comedy nor seriousness, but simply bemusement at the play as a play. It takes enormous effort and skill to both craft and execute seemingly contradictory notions and Emeric Fontal simply doesn’t possess this skill.

Why? The entire show reeks of the stereotypical and the clichéd. The villain of the show is easily apparent. Hint: he wears an open-collared shirt underneath a patterned vest with a yellow striped tie tied completely around his neck. Complete with striped pants and leather shoes our antagonist must have formidable stealth skills for it must be hard to evade the law when one has nearly the word “VILLIANY” in block capitals painted across one’s forehead. Beside the dress, the language too suffers.

Try saying this aloud in the most over-the-top, stereotypical respect-seeking gangster voice, “I think [slight pause] it is time for an emergency (emphasise) neck constriction.” Now keep the general tone and throw in some stale metaphors. The product is essentially the dialogue of every single character throughout the whole play except for Emeric and “The Padre” Danny. Needless to say, terribly interesting would be an understatement. (By the way, the latter character Danny is your not-so-bright but morally good boy exploited for shallow comedic value who apparently is incapable of expressing anything beyond general confusion.) The whole effect is a highly artificial, exaggerated version of film noir that constantly reminds the audience falsity of the world of Emeric Fontal. Every character is static and one-dimensional and beyond Emeric and Danny, it becomes hard to distinguish between the rest of the characters. This however can be acceptable and can even be well done if the show aims for comedy.

Puzzlingly enough, moments of comedy are interrupted by Emeric’s “moral torment”. Emeric our protagonist is portrayed as a tortured soul, as a small-time criminal with a conscience going through a moral crisis. He constantly wonders whether he should carry out his next heist that so fundamentally conflicts with his morals. However it is exceedingly hard to take Emeric seriously, never mind relate to him. This is because the play itself trivializes Emeric. As a symptom of the general nature of the play, Emeric too suffers from a banality of language. Emeric’s moral torment seems to impel him to shout and proclaim in an almost teary manner “I can’t do it!”, “This is so much evil!” in almost every opportunity and in certainly every scene. The audience is told of his plight but there is nothing beyond the rare but recurring scenes of violent shouting and throwing things are we shown of Emeric’s torment. And in the scenes where there is conflict between characters, it is really hard to take seriously a fight that centers on calling each other “dairy cowards.”

Instead Emeric’s solitary scenes of inner reflection are used as convenient excuses for set changes. Amazingly enough, this is conducted with a partially darkened stage through a spotlight that illuminates half of Emeric’s body while occasionally fully illuminating the set-changers, all the while bubbly songs such as “forever, forever, stay in my heart!” in I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin are blasted to the audience. The deepest issues of our protagonist are trivialized by the very presentation of the play.

The use of props and set changes must also be mentioned. Set changes are sometimes carried out brazenly in full light of the audience without dimming the stage. The actors try hard to look casual during fully-lighted set changes but it is damn hard to look casual when the supposedly “hard” gangster is holding a chair in one hand and a metronome in the other. The use of fully-lighted set changes is simply bizarre if not inconsistent for numerous darkened set changes are also used. One wonders why fully-lighted set changes are used when they add nothing to the show? A particular favourite scene of mine was when Emeric asks Danny to show him Danny’s flagpole; suddenly without warning nor waiting, a “flagpole” (a flag with rope attached) just drops out from the ceiling. Emeric is standing there contemplating suicide with the rope while the audience is chuckling at the sudden appearance of the flagpole. Not precisely the intended effect I suppose.

Why essentially then, does Emeric Fontal fail? Its own comedy undermines the gravity of Emeric. The gravity of Emeric likewise undermines the comedy of the play. The result is that the world of Emeric Fontal the show becomes two separate worlds, a world consisting of only Emeric and his seriousness and another world containing the rest of the characters and their comedy. These two worlds, instead of integrating and complementing each other, conflict and reduce one another; so by the time the curtain drops, the audience can only walk away empty handed.


Patrick John Callaghan-Pace

at 20:05 on 23rd Feb 2012



As a student written and realised play, the efforts of Nicholas Waskowycz are to be commended. Author, Director/Producer and last minute Actor as ‘The Dentist’, his creation and subsequent vision of Emeric Fontal was a notable attempt at playwriting. Waskowycz’s work, along with some excellent acting, captured a world of criminal masterminds in a gangster run town where cowardice is considered the epitome of all failings, and a man is worth only as much as his word. It was an emotionally complicated piece that resonated through the simplicity of the set. Admittedly some scenes worked better than others and overall there was a bit too much shouting for my liking, it was still a grand attempt and a concept full of imagination.

The entire play was based around a ‘dairy’ theme in which all curses were replaced with dairy related synonyms. - An example of this being “dairy coward” as the ‘c-bomb’ of this alternate reality. Whilst the dairy theme is an idea with some potential, its execution perhaps lacked imagination along with a bit of needed explanation. It also could have perhaps been a bit more developed throughout the play. The dairy concept as a whole was simply confusing at first, yet, I believe the audience eventually grasped that milky references were a bad thing, and that the physical presence of milk was even worse.

The acting as a whole was very good. Tim Blore (Emeric Fontal, protagonist) appeared in almost every scene, and consequently carried the show. His character started off as the epitome of cool, a real ‘badass’. I refer to the brilliantly executed opening scene in which he casually takes on three muggers to the theme tune of “Build me up buttercup”. A dream that I know I have had on more than one occasion! Blore also managed however to capture the more complicated side to his character, the tormented man wrecked with grief and remorse that lay within his ultra cool ‘laddish’ exterior. Fontal’s drawback as a character was the persistent shouting that went on to represent his remorse, something I feel that could have been achieved with perhaps a little more delicacy by Waskowycz.

There were indeed some scenes of true emotional capacity. Notably the scene in which Kirsten Lees (Mrs. Zenzero) playing Fontal’s amnesic mother monotonously depicted the crushing reality of what a mother’s opinion means to any man. Henry Morris (Roquefort) also acted very well as the slick mastermind of criminal projects, his calm tone and frankly evil persona brought much to the play’s consistency. Michael Galea (Danny) and Luke Satterthwaite (Elsavier) added a great ‘stooge’ dimension to the play as the clumsy associates. Galea’s goofy character added a comic side to what otherwise could have been a painfully serious production. Adam Kirkbride, consistent with the entire production acted extremely well playing the corrupted cop with some serious marital issues.

Minor set changes were done in full light by the characters involved in the scene themselves and major ones during a black out. A simple enough concept, one that I found to be a refreshing change from the usual blackout in which the audience sits awkwardly for the set to change. The lighting and sound did perhaps lack a bit of subtlety and on occasion was a bit rusty. However given that the technical team only had a very limited time to work with the different plays (of which many occurred one after the other) this seems to me no major failing by any standards.

Overall the whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable, there were displays of quality acting, and some real writing as well as creative potential in the script of Emeric Fontal. It is a play designed to be taken seriously, delivering a meaningful message to the audience and it did this with the addition of some much-appreciated comedy. - A commendable effort for all parties involved.

It’s lucky that I wasn’t lactose intolerant because Nicholas Waskowycz’s Emeric Fontal was Legen – wait for it – dairy! – just a little topical joke of mine..


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