Saturday, April 27, 2019

Theatre: The Double ★★★★

Written and directed by Clare Testoni
Lighting designed by Rhiannon Petersen
Sound design by Jou Lui
Performed by Phoebe Sullivan, Amanda Watson and Michelle Aitken
Blue Room Theatre
Phoebe Sullivan meets her double
The Blue Room theatre has broken with tradition and combined both its 2019 seasons (not counting its Summer Nights fringe festival and Winter Nights development offerings) into one year-long celebration of WA’s independent contemporary theatre.
Whether that’s clever marketing or sheer one-upmanship, the fifteen productions from now until December shape as an impressive, attention-grabbing body of work.
And its opening production, Clare Testoni’s sci-fai fable, The Double, is a perfect pilot for the series.
Testoni has made a quantum leap as a deviser and executor of theatre over the past couple of years, exploiting her skill as a shadow puppeteer, image-maker and imaginative interpreter of fairy tales.
Through it her work has become provocative, sophisticated and highly entertaining. Her developing power was demonstrated last year by Tale of Tales, a highlight of the Blue Room season, and the startling intergalactic panorama she created with Tim Watts for The Last Great Hunt’s Stay With Us.
The Double is even more ambitious, incorporating digital imagery and masking in the Faustian story of a struggling actor who sells her image to a megalithic corporation, risking her identity and soul in the process.
It’s richly intriguing to see how Testoni has used her skills and interests in new ways, so that you’re rarely aware that The Double essentially remains puppetry and her story a fairy tale.
Her three actors, Phoebe Sullivan, Amanda Watson and Michelle Aitken, morph skilfully into the central character, Victoria, her computer generated doppelganger, Vivy, and the relatives and friends, agents and corporate geeks who regale her (Aitken, in particular, is strange and compelling).
We most often see them as distorted projected images, accentuating the shape-shifting, manipulated realities of modern marketing and image creation. Testoni, who also directs, handles the metatheatrics of this process with aplomb
The story progresses with unhurried clarity through all this technology and theatrics, even if it finally doesn’t yet quite achieve its emotional potential. It provides a solid platform for Testoni’s Cartesian thesis on the reality of self in a digitally generated world,.
In fairytales and science fiction, the creator has to go beyond present reality to fetch her story, but, for The Double, Testoni doesn’t have to go too far to find it.
So much so that I couldn’t help wondering, as I watched this pertinent and excellently delivered production, how Gabrielle Miller must feel when she sees herself, everywhere, as the Trivago Girl.