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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti (Theatre Works' Explosives Factory) - 110 minutes (no interval)

A pianist from an ice cream parlour (Connor Dariol), a psychologist (Shamita Siva) and a physicist (El Kiley) get together.

No, that’s not the beginning of a bad joke, not even when I tell you the three come from different time zones.

The pianist was born 148 years ago … and is, not surprisingly, dead.

The psychologist believes it is 2017, while the physicist knows in 1983.

Photos by Sarah J. Clarke

So, exactly what is going on?

Well, I suppose that depends upon your interpretation of The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti.

First up, you might be asking who is Carlo Gatti?

He was a successful businessman who introduced ice-cream to Victorian London … and the pianist was an entertainer in his ice cream shops.

Now the pianist haunts the psychologist and physicist, firstly by playing Liszt and then chopsticks between midnight and 4am.

To mangle a Kylie Minogue song, the pair – who both live in a top floor apartment – can’t get his music out of their heads.

The sound is coming from above and so both walk to the roof, only to discover the pianist.

Mind you, not before the psychologist talks the physicist down from the ledge, from where she was contemplating plunging to her death.

The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti is about loneliness and connection.

In spite of their professional success, the psychologist and the physicist are troubled.

For the pianist, it is Groundhog Day, only the psychologist and the physicist don’t yet know it.

While there is much to appreciate about the existential crisis that plays out with heartbreak and mirth, I felt the play went on beyond acceptances.

At one hour 50 minutes without interval, it overplayed its hand.

I was engaged for the first hour and a quarter, after which it had a readymade ending, which playwright Cassandra Elli-Yiannacou didn’t take.

Instead, she kept writing, which really wasn’t necessary.

The concept behind the piece is intriguing.

The pianist puts it thus: The point of human existence is that the entire world has a plan. You can’t see it or know it. Everything is perfectly synchronised chaos.”

So, unquestionably, The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti stretches the mind … in a good way.

The performances are solid. All play their roles admirably.

Much of the focus is on Shamita Siva as the psychologist, who doesn’t have the healthiest relationship with her mother.

The play also features Hayley Edwards as the psychologist’s patient.

Directed by Chris Hosking, The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti has some important things to say about mental health, even if it does overstay its welcome.

It is playing at Theatre Works’ new venue, the Explosives Factory in St Kilda, until 13th August, 2022.


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