Monday, June 30, 2014

Theatre: Giving Up the Ghosts and 3 Seeds

Giving Up the Ghosts 
By Sarah Young
Owl Productions
Directed by Joe Lui
Designer Sara Chirichilli
Performed by Georgia King and Paul Grabovac

3 Seeds
By Afeif Ismail
Transcreated by Vivienne Glance and Afeif Ismail
Always Working Artists
Directed by Jeremy Rice
Designed by Cherie Hewson
Performed by Violette Ayad, Michelle Endersbee, Paul Grabovac, Janice Lim, Verity Softly, Kevin Mararo Wangai, Brianna Williams

For most of us, suicide is inexplicable. Perhaps, for our own safety, it needs to be. The great strength of Giving Up the Ghosts, the playwriting debut of Sarah Young, is that she doesn’t try to explain the suicidal impulse, or impose insights upon it. Her play, as deceptively powerful as it is deceptively simple, builds a platform for us to attempt to grasp a meaning, or at least some understanding, from suicide’s opaque horror.

Two young people, Ruth (Georgia King) and Steve (Paul Grabovac) connect on an Internet forum. We know nothing about their correspondence other than that they form a pact, arrange a meeting place and a shopping list. She’s to bring the car and a toxic cocktail of chemicals, he a roll of masking tape.
As they prepare their self-execution, they talk about things, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. What they never talk about, though, is why. Ruth is rushing compulsively to death, Steve stumbling toward it, but neither have the language, or feel the need, to explain themselves, and Young never puts words in their mouths.
King is a fierce actor whose greatest challenge is always to match her intensity to her character’s. Grabovac, on the other hand, is a most unmannered performer, hardly ever unmasking his considerable skill. They are perfectly cast here.
The engagement of Joe Lui, Perth theatre’s master of all trades, to direct is similarly apt. He’s a little away from his comfort zone in this highly naturalistic, tightly-bound piece, and there’s an awkward tension to its staging that fits it like a glove.   

3 Seeds, the earlier show at the Blue Room, is an intriguing, but only partly satisfying, exercise.
The writer Afeif Ismail tells three stories, each, we are to understand, “transcreated”, rather than merely translated, from his original Arabic text by the playwright and Vivienne Glance, a process that aims to maintain its original cultural and emotional subtext in its new language.
All well and good, and, aided by some fun performances – from the ebullient Kevin Mararo Wangai, saving the otherwise underwhelming opener Godot’s Labyrinth; Verity Softly and Brianna Williams bringing some yowzah yowzah to the knockabout allegory Why Rats Live Under Our Roof; and Violette Ayad and a twinkle-toed Paul Grabovac in the finale, One Seed, a neatly-constructed physical theatre routine that is the highlight of the show – the 90 minutes pass enjoyably enough.
Whether 3 Seeds achieves its admirable objective, though, is much less certain.

These reviews appeared in The West Australian 27.6.14 

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