Saturday, February 15, 2014

Theatre: You Once Said Yes and Tag. You're It

You Once Said Yes
Look Left Look Right
Written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Katie Lyons
Directed by Mimi Poskitt
PIAF until March 2

Tag. You’re It
Renegade Productions
Written and Directed by Alexa Taylor
Fringe World until Feb 15 

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid”, as Raymond Chandler once put it. Writing about Sin City Northbridge, no doubt.
Site-specific theatre, in all its variations, is a feature of both this year’s festivals. We’ve already marvelled at Situation Rooms, and we’ve still got The House Where Winter Lives to come.
So, on a steamy Perth night, I took to those mean streets. Twice. First with the UK company Look Left Look Right’s devious You Once Said Yes, and then with WA outfit Renegade Production’s playful Tag. You’re It.
Each has its own subtext – and even message, if you like. Each involves you moving from encounter to encounter, situation to situation as you walk those streets alone. While it’s not surprising that the experienced, tech-savvy British crew deliver a more surprising, elaborate and entertaining experience than the comparatively basic local production, there is plenty to like about both.

You Once Said Yes starts in a departure lounge on William Street, staffed by the only intermittently friendly Cecile (Sarah Nelson). Armed with her stern instructions, a mobile phone and 30 cents, you head off down William Street. Everything seems ordinary enough until a harried delivery boy (Ben Mortley) drops his packages in front of you. He needs your help, you say yes, and nothing is ordinary again. In a helter-skelter hour of seemingly accidental meetings and shady dealings, you’re heading for a train wreck you never see coming. Every word you utter, and every time you say yes (heaven knows what happens to you if you dare to say no), might come back to haunt you.
It’s all great fun, some fine WA actors, including Damon Lockwood, Alicia Osyka, Ella Hetherington and Allan Girod, give terrific cameo performances, the Surprise Ending, courtesy of James Rowland’s nimble Rocky, is a hoot, and if you’ve ever wondered how modern surveillance techniques work – you’re about to find out.
Tag. You’re It doesn’t have the same bag of tricks, but it does have a bagful of charm. Alexa Taylor’s script is also a series of encounters, more obvious than those in You Once Said Yes (you are directed to each new performer, rather than having them sprung on you) but often fascinating none-the-less. I found myself chatting to Jeremy Mitchell at Bivouac over a glass of red, skipping down William Street with Kit Sparrow (my idea, not his), dancing with Ben Ainsley in an upstairs apartment and shooting it out with bad boy Paul Grabovac in an alley off Aberdeen – while this was the most un-site specific episode in either show, it was also the most fun.
It had a sweet ending, with Arlensiu Cornejo serenading me in Spanish in the bowels of the State Library car park and, finally, Taylor quoting from Gwen Harwood's poem Nightime and inviting me to take her city as my own.
And, suddenly, those mean streets weren’t so mean after all. 

This review appeared in The West Australian 14.2.14

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