Posts tagged ‘TAP Gallery’
THE POLITICAL HEARTS OF CHILDREN
presented by subtlenuance at the TAP Gallery, April 2013
Some years ago I attended a ‘Welcome-to-Country’ which preceded the National Young Writer’s Festival up in Newcastle. The traditional owner hosting the welcome sat everyone in a circle and told us some of the background of the place, of the Awabakal and Worimi people and how they first began to use coal way back before colonisation, and how the knowledge had been passed on through word-of-mouth in gatherings just like the one we were in that day. She asked the group to each tell something about from where they had come, myself from Sydney, others from Western Australia or overseas – it took a while (there were forty of us in the group) – but as a custom, it’s central to the welcoming process, for understanding where we have come from is a vital part of knowing who and where we are. At the end of the welcome, she thanked us said she looked forward to seeing us around the place over the course of the festival weekend. As we all got up to leave, almost offhandedly she said “and I want to hear those stories”.
I kept thinking of that day in the post-show haze of wonder. Those stories that define us, as a people, as an individual, as a nation, as a world, can so easily slip from the memory but when told, can take on such power to change lives. It’s evolution on a granular scale – and that’s why this show, with such a deceptively simple premise, is a vastly important piece of theatre. Seven actors, passing on a tale from their childhood, each defining moments of personal truth, pain, glory or fear – shared with seven writers and retold, stylised, cut up and played out in the empty space – we recall the words of Brook’s seminal text “where anything can happen”. Each tale is a truth and an exaltation, a memory and a trick of the mind – and all of them much, much stranger than fiction. This is a rare find for theatre-hunters, the opening night audience laughing, crying and so privileged to find insight into not one but seven beautiful minds. I’m going back again.
The Political Hearts of Children, featuring James Balian, Mark Dessaix, Rosanna Easton, Carla Nirella, Kelly Robinson, Kathryn Schuback and Stephen Wilkinson. Written by Alison Rooke, Katie Pollock, Kimberley Lipschus, Victoria Haralabidou, Benito Di Fonzo, Didem Caia and James Balian, directed by Paul Gilchrist. Playing until April 21, 2013 at the TAP Gallery, Sydney.
POST-SCRIPT: further reflections
After going back for a second bite – the show equally as enjoyable, in different ways – I want to just expand on what I mean by “evolution on a granular scale”. I meant the phrase sincerely but it has the unfortunate reek of pretension without context – which becomes very difficult given my hatred of spoilers! But I digress…
What struck me was the sense of rediscovery of innocence, a recurring thread throughout the pieces. The opening monologue, a back and forth between the adult and child versions of Kathryn Schuback on a trip to the beach, demonstrates just how easily we can forget ourselves, our childhood dreams “what do you want to be when you grow up?”… realistic or not “do you have to go to school to be an astronaut?” and the natural comedic pitch of such a conversation set the tone of reflective wonder. There’s some dramaturgical nous at play as well, rather than setting each tale back-to-back-to-back, this piece and the thrilling Skink-Hunt from Stephen Wilkinson & Benito Di Fonzo are broken up into sections, bookending some of the other pieces neatly and interweaving between threads, giving Political Hearts an overall tapestry feel throughout.
With each of the actor-writer teams given a similar brief, there are wildly different results. Some of the stories take the form of a set of impressionistic memories, such as Rosanna Easton’s fascinating recollection of early life in New Zealand, some key moments counterpointing the overall metaphor of the hothouse-orchid, yearning for more but trapped in the “always winter” of adolescent discontent. A recurring motif: frustration, disappointment, oppression and hope, throughout each piece, ranging in scale but always uniquely personal to the world of the actor – and for the young, that world is nothing less than everything they’ve ever known. Whether it’s a deadly backyard war-zone, or the grandparents’ farm disappearing only to live on in the memories of the now grown-up cousins, or the world of school corridors and associated bullies – the vividness of what seems so small today can pull a thread on our own tiny worlds.
We can relate to something in each, or imagine the rest. The imagination’s power intensified by the bare stage and raw images, culminating in the sudden shift in distance to a world most of us only read about. An actual warzone – Iraq, 1963 – James Balian’s tale of a trip to the dentist in the midst of a revolution. It’s a strange transition, still from the child’s perspective but fifty years gone. We’ve just come from the joyous victory of Boy Wilkinson’s heightened battle against the magpies for his prized skink. So it’s an abrupt reminder of the breadth of the world experience and its universality. These are all stories of Australia, even when they aren’t, because we’re here, now, telling them, sharing ourselves. The Welcome to Country I refer to earlier because storytelling is a vital part of our Indigenous heritage, an something we must begin to embrace if we are to come to terms with our identity, our identities as a nation today.
Oppression and fear can come in many forms. Sometimes it’s imagined, sometimes it’s projected, sometimes it’s very real, and sometimes it’s simply easier to pretend it’s not there. It’s how we react that shapes us. “We grow up.” Lest we Forget.
AFTER THE END
presented by pantsguys Productions, TAP Gallery, June 2012
The old writing adage of ‘putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations’ resonates with this play, based around the simple precept of two colleagues trapped in a nuclear fallout shelter having barely escaped some cataclysm on the outside. They’re friends, but not close friends; as in ‘liked but not well-liked’. What better way to get to know someone than being trapped in a post-apocalyptic concrete box? And so in shades of Sartre’s No Exit the awkwardness begins to take its toll. But there is a lot more to it than that. The humour underpins and opens up a rich vein of social commentary around the absurdity of social mores – further enabled by the immediate dislocation of Mark & Louise’s horrific circumstance. Playwright Dennis Kelly’s use of the end-of-the-world trope thankfully embraces the situation as more than a convenient exercise in putting his odd-couple archetypes in a bitingly funny bottle-episode. There’s metaphoric intent as well – without giving up any gags the heightened melodrama of the apocalypse outside betrays the ludicrous pettiness of the sniping, bickering pair underneath. There’s also a darker shade at play, with the duo embodying a microcosm of society’s remnants, clinging to memories and attitudes that serve no function other than to momentarily distract from the hopelessness of their predicament.
These attitudes are what define us as a civilisation, for when bricks and mortar turn to dust it’s the belief systems and social politics that endure. Kelly’s dialogue touches on race, religion, utopian thought and more – not heavy handedly but enough to betray how single-mindedness is kind of inane, especially when everybody else is dead. Power? what’s the point? Food and water? Natural resources running scarce? Let’s talk about this… but as a society, we don’t talk about this now (not really) and old habits run free, or something. It’s a bleak, wry comment about who-do-we-think-we-are; and very funny. From the opening scene we can empathise as Louise recoils from the horror of losing everything by grasping at the life she had just hours before. She’s in shock, who wouldn’t be – but as the vestiges of life-before-the-bomb carry through the comedy turns into a gripping parable of a society suffering from acute lack of self-awareness.
All of this makes for a fascinating sociological case-study, but for the extraordinary work done by the two performers it burgeons into so much more. This is the acting equivalent of deep sea free-diving; almost two hours on stage with ramping intensity, the result as good as or better than anything we’ve seen lately at the mainstage companies. Mark is a study in the repressed modern male ego, alienated by his desires and clinging to his ‘nice-guy’ victim role like a psychological life-preserver. You would be forgiven at moments for wanting to walk onto the stage and thump him; such is the understated impact of the performances. Louise traverses her emotional rollercoaster with poise and selfless courage, balancing the cynicism of her naive privileged pride with genuine grief, fear and humility. They are given over to the roles, they are completed characters, in discovery of themselves as the play unfolds. As the veneer of civilisation slips just a bit further away with every scene, as do their layers, until the intensity of solitude and imprisonment leaves nothing but the truth about who they really are. It’s astonishing, inspiring stuff. I went in exhausted, slightly cranky and hollow, the typical resistant audience member; nearly two hours later, I didn’t want it to end. This is performance. Go and see this play. Go and see this play.
AFTER THE END, by Dennis Kelly, directed by Felicity Nicol, featuring Rebecca Martin and Drew Wilson. playing at the TAP Gallery until July 14th.
presented by subtlenuance, at the TAP Gallery, May 2012
This is a fine play, replete with passionate performances, restraint, wit and darkness. Playwright Paul Gilchrist has a reputation for a richness in wordplay that balances the bawdy with the beatific and the brutal – his newest work does not disappoint. From the first strings of dialogue we are caught between styles of speech that clash like water on jagged rocks; impossible idealistic poetry jarring against quick pragmatism. It’s these two vast thematic motifs that stretch throughout the narrative for a smart eighty-odd minutes of tension and intrigue. The only drawback we can name is that the language is so richly plotted one can easily get caught up in it and miss a beat – all things considered a good thing, adhering to the golden rule of showbiz – leaving this audience member wanting more.
The density of the language is matched by the characterisations, contrasting between exuberant passionate youth, calculating cynicism, larrikin menace, mortal idealism and the cool emotional distance and restraint of the title role. Gilchrist and his ensemble have managed to find a rewarding blend for the cast of characters showing us both what each character represents thematically in the work but also, crucially what they want within the context of the narrative, no mean feat given the breadth of the stakes at play. For these are not simply individual quests for power or survival or money or love (although all of these things are on the line) – but the broader, human story of the progress of civilisation, that it’s set in the dark period of history full of uncertainty and medieval superstition emphasises the significance that it could easily be a modern journey as well – for are not people being murdered or imprisoned in the name of social justice every day? Lest we forget that for a thin veneer of square meals and the security of running water we might also fall into a darker time, lest we forget that the giants on whose shoulder we might climb, whether they be Newton, Voltaire, Epicurus or Nietzsche, also once stood and wondered what might be, like everyone, an ordinary human blessed with the yoke of curiosity. Gripping, intelligent theatre.
LUCY BLACK, written and directed by Paul Gilchrist, presented by subtlenuance at the TAP Gallery; featuring Richard Hilliar, Sonya Kerr, Corinne Marie, Joshua Morton and Zara Zoe. Until June 3rd.
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.