Bite Me – Anthony Skuse and The Voices Project. (Theatre Review)
ATYP Studio Theatre, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
February 5-22, 2014
When a director agrees to present the ten chosen plays from the ATYP The Voices project, they are agreeing to find a way beyond the key theme to connect the disparate voices which, if the project has been as successful as hoped, have little to connect them. In 2013 the theme was “food” and the twenty or so young people (ages eighteen to twenty-six) came together with mentors in a week-long writing project to formulate and then write their ideas. At the end of the week, Anthony Skuse, the chosen director for this particular year went down to hear the final products as they had been created.
Several months later, the production Bite Me is ready for performance with nine young actors selected to present the works of ten of the young playwrites. Skuse has chosen to present a movement oriented piece, atop a large platform that holds one item only, a table. The young people wear comfortable clothes, changing jeans for sweats and back again, singlets for shirts and headscarves for headbands. The props are minimal, the transition between each piece fluid. Skuse decides to use whatever he can find in the soul of each of his young performers, coming up with musical pieces, dance and movement heavy pieces, spoken word poetry pieces. The result is ten different fragments of thought, beautifully performed, each connecting in its own special fashion with a different aspect of the audience – some will make us laugh, some will make us cry, some will leave us horrified and others will touch the sublime space inside where the wells connect.
As each of the ten performances make their way to the table (or under the table in some cases) the rest of the cast form a backdrop, either sitting completely still to focus all energy on the performance, playing smaller roles the play might demand, or becoming the missing sets and props as if those objects exist inside us as well as out. This means that the ten plays, that are almost monologues, never give the sense of an isolated event, each exists on the stage, the full cast becoming more a part of the background of the performance as time moves through the show. Transitions between pieces are performed in a dance like fashion, and as the show progresses they become more athletic in their interpretation, bodies moving like pieces of a set rearranging itself in preparation for each new voice. The bodies pause to speak or listen to each fragment almost like pieces of the table itself, the place where food sits before it becomes us, waiting for the transformation in the table’s offerings. The table offers family unity, warmth, humour, fear, death, hope, and the longed for coming of age that each youth expects to be ladled out with an age appropriate meal. As the plays are served up, each dish another course in this enormous soul-filled feast, our experience with food and the responsibilities and consequences of consumption are licked off lips and passed by tongues, filling our bellies with the joy of any satisfying meal.
The plays themselves vary in taste and texture. A frightening monologue sees a young man confronted in a post apocalyptic world by the consequences of starvation, and a young woman lets a story about a man who eats sunshine affect her enough to think of the consequences of her actions. A young woman will make a hilarious bargain with her one night stand to try to extend their relationship, and another will confess to carnivorous cravings although dating a vegetarian. There are pleas for consensus, despite cultural difference, and a very funny unified voice of a family at dinner. All of these statements, all of these voices, all of these ideas belong around the lonely table and the very fine cast bring each play alive so that the audience is left wanting more after the energetic and vibrant one hundred minutes. The young creatives who work the lights and sounds do a stellar job with a special shout out to Adele Jeffreys, the shows movement coach, who brings out so much in the young actors.
Bite Me is a fluid, beautiful night at the theatre in Sydney, with an exciting opportunity to catch the first plays of this countries greats of tomorrow.