Rob Van Meenen’s Repetitive Strain Injury bills itself as a dark comedy about contemporary relationships: their quirks, vulnerabilities and the tensions between fate and choice.
We follow a young couple, Julie and Dave on the brink of marriage. Wedded bliss is nowhere in sight. The couple fights about wedding favours, sex and kept mementoes from past lovers. Julie finds a friend in Pia, a mysterious telemarketer with a font of wisdom recycled from The Matrix, while Dave’s friend Guy is too busy chasing skirts to help a friend in crisis.
There are glimmers of truth in this story: the ghosts of lovers past, inexplicable hook-ups, and the insecurities that can plague relationships. But they are just that – glimmers. Van Meenan’s script rarely goes beyond allusions or talk-arounds. Ultimately, Repetitive Strain Injury suffers from a wooden and overlong script that lacks context.
The characters are exaggerated and flattened versions of real people, and their dynamics are tired. Guy (Robin Dunne) is an over-the-top sleazeball who takes his dating commandments from Neil Strauss’s The Game while Pia (Imali Perera) is a walking immigrant cliché with a burdensome accent. Meanwhile, Ava Markus as Candice has nothing to work with as the jilted one-night stand, and Dave (Pat Kiely) is listless and enigmatic. We have no clue who he is, or what he wants. Julie (Amy Matysio) appears to be two different people. Why are they together? We don’t know.
In its second hour, the play turns into a different beast. The snail’s pace of the meandering first half has been switched off and suddenly we are watching The Young and the Restless. Sensational revelations abound, but so little of it is explained. The Repetitive Strain Injury is a play that goes too far and yet does not go far enough. It needs to decide who its characters are and what they are about.