New Australian Theatre Voices Reaching Out

19/07/2010 at 6:41 pm Leave a comment

talc / Two Gates
at the TAP Gallery presented by SubtleNuance, July 2010

It’s tricky to respond to this as a double bill, as both plays have their own breadth and breath; even so there are parallels in each which complement the other. So as a night out it carries a provocative edge, welding the personal into the political with a light touch. It’s a theatre that is executed in deceptively simple terms, with minimalism and depth to the staging across the board. With slight differences in convention between the two pieces; I want to write about them separately, but I will resist the urge and attempt a wholistic view of the evening’s entertainment.

First off, the performances are at a very high standard. It’s something I have come to expect in the independent sector, but now and then you will get a little shiver about halfway through a show when you find yourself staring into a mirror, in the form of someone else. These characters are not simple archetypes of the aspirational classes. Although there are shades of the kind of suburban naivety one expects from a certain demographic – there are complexities, fears and flaws that pull you in – irrespective of the level of irony with which their lives are viewed. So it’s possible to laugh both at and with the protagonists as their various bubbles slowly burst. It’s no mean feat for the artists to balance on the two sides of the coin that are comedy and tragedy, with empathy, pathos and irony all at once.

While the actors are keeping us engaged, it’s also a testament to the depth of the writing that you don’t necessarily notice the tricks of light and shade playing out through the dialogue, at least not until after they’ve had their way with you. As narrative devices go there’s a sufficient ebb and flow and turn to keep the audience attuned, but when the twists unfold, they aren’t forced or contrived. And given my perennial angst surrounding plot summaries; on that subject I will say no more. Instead I will digress to a broader issue; one flagged in last weekend’s Spectrum article on Australian writing with the words

“Australian plays are too white, too middle class … and there are too few of them.”

While there’s a whole set of assumptions to be made with a statement like that; and implications – I find it amusing to be reading such a broad-blanket allocation of the state of Australian writing on the same day I go and see two new Australian plays; plays which deal with issues both unique to Australian audiences and have a global outlook as well. Frankly, a quip like that about Australian plays being too white or too middle class is a bit strange. Too white for who? And too few? It’s worth mentioning that these are the fourth and fifth new works from SubtleNuance since June 2009.

But I digress, I bring up that issue in the context of this double bill because these works are inherently relevant to middle class audiences. They both reflect and interrogate the privilege of the Sydney lifestyle; through distinct windows of the domestic and the traveller abroad. In this way they are complementary, although each works in a different style, from realism in talc to the more self-reflexive fourth wall breaking found in Two Gates. While I agree that (broadly speaking) there could be more diversity and volume to be found in the content of new Australian plays – there’s still plenty of range to be found across the board. And besides, it’s a dangerous path of political pandering when we start to define a piece of art by its ethnicity. But perhaps that is an issue for another day…

Whatever colour you find these works to be, they represent grassroots Australian voices that resonate on a global front.

talc, by Daniela Giorgi featuring Lucas Connolly and Jo Richards; Two Gates by Paul Gilchrist featuring Heidi Lupprian. Playing at the TAP Gallery until August 1st.

Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, New Work, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , , , .


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