We venture out of the Blue Room/PICA Summer Nights precinct and into the outer Fringes of Perth for a 3-show Saturday binge. First on the bill is WAYTCo‘s On the Face of Things at The Parrott House in Maylands (formerly known as Chrissie Parrott Arts), then we cross town to the CBD for Open Lid Ensemble‘s Halina at Laneway Lounge, and finally wind up back in the Cultural Centre for The Cutting Room Floor‘s Talk Dirty to Me at The Stables.
Who’s in charge here? Who is to be held accountable for this play? Is it the author? The actors? The audience?
Playwright Alicia Osyka takes poetic license with known dramatic form and gives us her very own Six Characters in Search of an Author, except in her show, there are 12 actors and more than one author…on the face of things. At first we have a middle-aged male author, given voice by a young actor. He tries hard to herd these cats (actors) by putting them in like-minded groups. When that falls apart, and he ends up killing a character, everything comes to a screeching halt and the “real” author reveals herself. She’s a feminist, and she’s fed up with hiding behind a pen name and using a male voice in order to gain legitimacy and recognition as a playwright. She does her best to keep the actors in line too, but these cats just won’t be penned in. They have ideas of their own. They want to express themselves and engage with the audience in their own way. At last, we have a final revelation: the real “real” author is none other than Alicia Osyka, and she is really sorry for what has just taken place.
The play is scattered, but there is something of a loose structure, i.e. that of the false starts and the revelations, and there are moments of truth that shine through. It’s a tough thing to write an egalitarian, non-hierarchical piece for a dozen actors, and while this one doesn’t always work, there’s enough there to keep us guessing and give us some fun surprises. It’s clear that the cast is at various stages in their training, but I suppose this is also part of the show’s fun, which boils down to this: the joy and peril of self-discovery.
When we discover ourselves, we can begin to uncover ourselves to others.
Halina is washing the linen. It’s a soothing process for her; it’s orderly, tidy, predictable, clean. Then she discovers a rogue red sock has discolored the load. Her entire world is ripped apart.
The Open Lid Ensemble is a newly assembled physical theatre group, and their first offering is this wonderful little bundle of energy, Halina. Devised and performed by 6 women, featuring Amanda Watson as the title character and music composed by Michael Biagioni, this show has a bit of sprightly magic about it. For those who are unfamiliar with physical theatre and what to expect, it’s basically theatre that emphasizes storytelling through movement rather than words, and sometimes the performers develop a verbal language of their own through the devising process. You don’t see many stand-alone physical theatre performances in Perth at the moment, so it’s excellent that these women are taking the leap and making a go of it.
After Halina discovers the rogue red sock, the band of merry laundry sprites (for lack of a better descriptor) try their best to soothe Halina and bring her back to sanity. There’s just one problem: one of these sprites, Kat Shaw, goes rogue herself. She starts to sabotage the whole thing. So not only do the rest of them have to get Halina back on track, but they also have to quell rebellion in their own ranks.
After something of an epiphany, Halina finally speaks. She voices her regret at who she’s become, lamenting the loss of times when she used to enjoy variety and colour. Suddenly she is able to see the laundry sprites, and she lets them show her how to play again, now with coloured linen that they all manipulate into different forms, such as an elephant, or a boat on a wavy sea. Will Halina be able to live in this joyful, free-flowing space, or will she go back to her neatly pressed, neatly folded white world?
Ann-Marie Biagioni seems to be the leader of these laundry sprites, being the most vocal, pro-active of the bunch. Biagioni has a quality that just won’t be contained by any stage; I reckon she could fill the Perth Arena with her energy. Kat Shaw is downright scary, in a good way. She is a pro at this kind of theatre, she’s bold and strong, and she doesn’t hold back. Watson, with the only “speaking” role, delivers a monologue with depth and lets these crazy creatures take her on a fantastic ride. Michael Biagioni doesn’t miss a beat, creates some wonderful soundscapes, and helps the performers take us audience on that fantastic ride too.
The Cutting Room Floor has an ambitious, 3-show season during Fringe World 2016, the first of which is Talk Dirty to Me, conceived by Chris Brain and Casey Elder.
Talk Dirty to Me talks about sex in the app age. We meet two people, a guy (Owen Lane) and a girl (Reilly O’Byrne-Inglis), who meet through a dating app. We’ll call it Tinder, if you like. We watch them text on their phones as they read their messages out loud to us. Their relationship starts out flirtatious, then over time (just how much time, I’m not certain), they become more serious. Less ‘hey, I’m touching myself’ and more ‘hey, you really touch my heart.’ We meet a third guy (Teig Sadhana), who muses about relationships in the app age, takes us through the process of creating and using profiles to connect and disconnect with strangers. We meet a fourth guy (Rian Howlett) who does interpretive dances with the others to describe these things too.
The show may be an eye-opener for people of an older generation, or those who have never tried online dating, but I suspect for the most part, the show is preaching to the converted. Its premise and the twist at its climax are all very familiar territory. The performances are fine, and there seemed to be some good feedback from the audience in the way of laughter and ‘tsk’s and ‘ooooh’s, but the structure was monotonous and predictable, and the revelations completely underwhelming. The pair of sexters spent the majority of the time with their faces buried in their phones, which is in the end not an effective convention for live theatre. Everywhere you turn these days, you’re looking at people staring at phones, and I doubt that anyone would or should pay to do so in a play.
In any case, this whole affair is a quickie; it’s over and done with in about 40 minutes, so you’re in and out and onto your next Fringe conquest in no time.
WAYTCo’s On the Face of Things runs until 12 Feb. For more info, visit: http://www.fringeworld.com.au