Wednesday begins with entirely too much stretching, yawning, throat-clearing, shuffling about and scratching of testicles. And although this itchy testicle motif recurs throughout the production, its significance is never made clear. Sure, the earthy and often irritating realities of everyday existence is a worthy subject for exploration, but the question of why Wednesday’s main character has such an itchy scrotum and what it all means just can’t hold an audience’s interest for more than a moment. For some this will be offensive. For others, merely tedious.
This choice, to elevate a minor irritant to major thematic element, is symptomatic of Wednesday’s larger problems – structure, character and plot. Wednesday gets wrong pretty much everything it’s possible to get wrong.
Regarding structure, what initally appears to be an innovative decision to have Wednesday shown entirely from the main character’s point of view turns out to be a constraint that inflicts an intolerable level of boredom on the viewer. We follow the main character, suburban husband and father Ben, played by Ben Thurley in a role he seems almost to have been born for, from the moment he wakes until he finally puts his head down at night. Domestic, travel and work scenes are all seen entirely from his point of view – through his eyes, as it were. This point-of-view, cinéma-verité style is charming for about the first five minutes but by the time we become aware that we are going to sit through an hour-long bus journey on Sydney’s congested and less-than-scenic M2 in real time the technique feels not merely tired, but tortuous.
It’s fair to say, too, that Ben is a pretty unappealing character. He doesn’t come across as a person of great ambition or substance and – apart from his tedious crotch problem – doesn’t seem to be struggling with issues of any great moment. Wednesday is also not helped by the undisciplined and unfocused approach taken to the introduction and involvement of the other characters. A welter of people briefly intrude on Ben’s consciousness – family-members, workmates and passers-by. But we never gain a sense of what any of them mean to Ben. Distracted, listless and not-so-subtly condescending, he skates across the surface of other people’s lives, offering half-hearted conversation and limited engagement before returning his attention to another spreadsheet, a mind-numbing sequence of emails received and replied to, or – of course – his itchy groin.
That said, at least a few of the other characters seem to have potential. Some of his workmates appear to have a verve and an inner-life that is so sadly lacking in Wednesday’s lead. Their brief appearances and half-heard presence just out of frame for much of Wednesday is a reminder of the powerful ensemble piece it could have been. And so much more could have been made of Ben’s wife in particular, a character played with a compelling combination of resignation and charm by Lyndall Thurley. Her story, her perspective, even just a sense of how she has managed to stay married to a character like Ben, would have enriched Wednesday immeasurably. Sadly though, as with all the other characters, her potential is squandered.
Wednesday’s plot, such as it is, revolves (quite literally revolves – barely progressing, never resolving) around a series of work meetings, vague doodling of notes, phone calls and emails to complete a piece of office busywork, the importance of which is left completely unexplained to the audience. Every meeting seems to mirror every other meeting and every phone call is an echo. If the character Ben doesn’t feel any great sense of urgency around these tasks, then it’s hard to see why an audience would. The dinner scene with Lyndall and their two boys, played with vigorous glee by Gabe and Jacob, has some pretty funny moments but by then I was simply beyond caring. Let’s hope that the careers of these promising children aren’t irretrievably stunted by their involvement in this train-wreck.
Like its protagonist, Wednesday is flabby, unstructured, tedious and self-indulgent. By the end I couldn’t wait for the lights to go out.