Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Physical theatre: WALK

by Bobby Russell

Designed by Opie Robinson

Lighting design by Joe Lui

Sound design by Peter McAvan

Performed by Bobby Russell

Blue Room Theatre

July 14 - 30, 2022

pic: Jed Lyall
 For all its many virtues, the little black box theatre at the Blue Room is not an ideal venue for the spectacular. It’s been achieved before (Humphrey Bower and Tim Green’s Golem in 2020 and Leah Shelton’s Bitch On Heat the year before come to mind) but rarely.

Now along comes Bobby Russell’s WALK, and it absolutely blows conventional wisdom about what can and can’t be done there to smithereens. Russell and their collaborators have created a dark, sumptuous environment of light, sound, vapours and forms that challenge and extend the senses.

While Russell is the only live performer, writhing through a maze of marvelous creations by Opie Robinson, dark fogs and blinding bursts of light, there’s a case that their performance is as much an physical adjunct to a remarkable original composition by Peter McAvan than that McAvan’s music is an accompaniment to Russell’s dance.

Add to that a remarkable lighting design by Joe Lui that, among many striking effects, uses bursts of dazzling light that allow Russell to reset while our pupils recover from the shock.

The cumulative effect of movement, music and light produces a work with a very clear structure within which Russell tells their story.

But what is it, what are these creatures that Russell and Robinson creates, and what narrative purpose do they serve?

A confession: dance is a foreign language to me. I appreciate its skill and beauty in the same way I admire French, or Noongar, or Hindi, but find interpreting what is being said to me as difficult as understanding what I’m being told in those languages.

Having said that, I’m sure Russell is telling their own story, and their metaphor is the process of metamorphosis. Their inner being, their soul, is represented by their unadorned form, close-shaven, non-binary, monochromatic, anonymous – the egg from which they will grow.

The egg’s metamorphosis, to larvae, pupa and adult is represented by its interaction with Opie’s creatures – a gigantic, billowing form, like a mutant caterpillar, and a disintegrating suit of armour, glowing like some burning conquistador – until, finally, the egg becomes adult and finds its personality in drag in shimmering gold lamé and electric wig, beaming as they lip-sync to Kylie and take their bow.

Russell’s story is about the struggle for identity and for freedom in the face of a society that would contain them or swallow them whole. Shot through the spectacle is powerful emotion and an authentic humanity.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Theatre: Pull the Pin

by Rebecca Fingher

Directed by Sian Murphy

Set designer William Gammel

Lighting designer Spencer Herd

Sound composer Jacob Sgorous

Sound designer David Stewart

Performed by Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Hannah Davidson, Tegan Mulvaney, David Stewart and Elisa Williams

Blue Room Theatre

June 17 – July 2, 2022

Tegan Mulvaney lines 'em up (pic: Sophie Minnissale)
 Pull the Pin, Rebecca Fingher’s story of the trials and tribulations of a ten-pin bowling team of women of a certain age, the “Old Hags”, as they graduate from the relaxed comfort of the Social League to the dog-eat-dog Mid-Year Championship has plenty going for it.
The Hags – Jules (Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Donna (Elisa Williams) and the ambitious Ang (Tegan Mulvaney) are all at the time of their lives where action and consequences collide, on and off the alley, and this is fertile territory for Fingher’s sharp, observational script.
Even more so when their move into the big league butts them up against younger, tougher opponents (in life as in bowling) like the teenaged Lake (Hannah Davidson), whose contemptuous pity for her older adversaries is obvious and often very funny.
In a nice touch the women’s story is narrated by an endearing bowling pin (David Stewart, filling in for the COVID-benched Isaac Diamond) that keeps the story rattling along merrily.
The staging is quite an achievement; William Gammel’s bowling lane set has all the right detailing, and the actual bowling, with the balls rumbling off the traverse stage to that singular sound of pin action (Stewart is also sound designer) is terrific use of the space.
It’s a talented cast – Beresford-Ord and Davidson are particularly effective, and they push the boundaries of realistic characterization with well-controlled discipline (a credit to director Sian Murphy).Rather like last year’s Ugly Virgins from Maiden Voyage at the Blue Room, that plays out very similarly in a women’s roller game team, the plot is simple and satisfying enough (it needs no elaboration here), but it’s a little too straightforward to be truly absorbing. I doubt anyone expected a tragic ending, but the setbacks in the story are too easily overcome, and the conflicts, such as they are, too quickly resolved
It’s nice that everything comes good in the end, but it’s a better game if the danger that it might not lour’d larger upon the Old Hag’s house.