Thursday, June 20, 2013

Theatre: Great White and Sea Inside

Great White
Written and directed by Will O’Mahoney
Performed by Adriane Daff, Mikala Westall, Will O’Mahoney
Sea Inside
Russya Connor
Text by Rainer Maria Rilke
The Blue Room
Until June 29

Will O'Mahoney and Adriane Daff
There are opening lines, and there are great white opening lines. “Hi – I’m going to eat you!” is undeniably among the latter. When, in Will O’Mahoney’s ambitious Great White, it’s jauntily delivered by a slight girl in retro racing togs, it seems as incongruous as it is attention-grabbing.
But don’t be fooled. The girl (Adriane Daff) is indeed a shark, and her intended victim, Ben (O’Mahoney, who also directs), has plenty to fear from her.
The great white shark haunts the Australian consciousness like nothing else. Even snakes, plane crashes and the other elemental stuff of our nightmares haven’t its grip on our imagination. Perhaps because of its sheer monstrosity, certainly because of its superiority, it make us less at home in an environment that we claim as our birthright.
It’s a potent motif, and a super theatrical device, that O’Mahoney, Daff and Mikala Westall, who plays Ben’s conflicted girlfriend, take full advantage of.

There’s much fine wordplay, not a little humour and some nicely charged sexiness as the three of them wade through designer/producer Alicia Clements’ clever set of inflated beach balls.
O’Mahoney’s allegorical purpose is revealed in snatches of memory and forgetting; it’s the inexorable, inescapable, power of time, the ultimate apex predator, that most interests him here.
Daff is such a fine actor. She always brings vivacity and commitment to her parts, and the pinpoint accuracy of her small gestures and little exhalations is marvellous to see. Westall and O’Mahoney complement her tour de force with brave, emotional, performances of their own.
Will O’Mahoney is at a powerful moment in his career. Work like this, and his recent The Improved, is full of audacity and nerve. Even if his command of his craft may not quite be there yet, it is coming, and fast, and it’s exciting to watch it approach.       

Performances on aerial silks, the apparatus popularised by Cirque de Soleil and the singer, Pink, require physical grace and gymnastic skill, both of which Russya Connor has in abundance.
Connor’s Sea Inside, the later show at the Blue Room, is a meditation on our place in the natural world, the sea and the sky, with text by the early 20th century German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, and music by her Austrian collaborator, Ali Schmidl.
The short piece’s elements are skilfully and sometimes beautifully drawn, but, for me at least, they never seemed to be more than the sum of their parts. The silks are now too commonplace to be an end in themselves, and the combination of them and Rilke’s verse gave no particular insight into either. 

This review appeared in The West Australian 19.6.13 

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