Between Us – The Voices Project 2015 at ATYP. (Theatre Review)
4 feb to 21 Feb
The Warf Theatre – you can grab tickets here.
Photography by Tracey Schramm.
The voices project at ATYP is always one of the highlights of the Sydney theatre calendar, a great way to start the year and an always optimistic look at up and coming talent and the rich and diverse group of voices and theatre makers finding their way to our stages. However, something particularly special happens this year with the usual project of eleven or so short monologues written by young people for seventeen year olds (perhaps just emerging from school) that has to do with an exciting committment to collaboration that turns out to be something of a true wonder against what must be a backdrop of fairly competitive young people each seeking to be heard over the loud and talented voice of their neighbour.
The theme of this years monologues is secrets, against the very obvious idea that telling a story is usually the revelation of some sort of secret. Therefore one has a sense right from the start of young people whispering in your ear an idea that is fostered by Melanie Liertz’ courageous and interesting set design and Alexander Berlage’s lighting. The entry to The Wharf theatre is moved counter-clockwise, an effect that immediately discombobulates the audience who struggle with the intrusive position their vantage point will evoke throughout the show. The idea of a confessional is subverted, rather leaving the theatre goer with the unique experience of being an unrecognised interloper. The audience is moved around the setting by flashing lights, choreographed segue’s and at one point, a “come in here guys” when we stared wide-eyed into the empty space the young performers had just abandoned. There may be a seat, you may find yourself plonked in the middle of a set, or you may be standing and shifting out of the spotlight for the bulk of the show. Wear comfortable shoes.
All this excitement is the perfect backdrop for what turns out to be a series of eleven beautifully performed monologues that rather surprisingly, often focus on identity and heritage as a secret a young person will carry as a burden. For example a young Aboriginal girl finds out, after being raised in an indigenous community, that she hasn’t any Aboriginal blood in her, and suddenly doesn’t know if she’s white, Jewish or Asian in Tahlee Fereday’s Mahla Land, performed by Lucia May. A young and talented musician trying to equal her grandmothers musical genius ends up struggling in hospital after an episode of self harm when secrets about her grandmother and family history are revealed in Fiona Spitzkowsky’s Accidents Happen, beautifully performed by Rebecca Cuttance who straddled that fine line between obsessive talent and anti-social geek.
A spirited two parter titled Say “Yes” written by Tom Mesker centres around a young boy and girl breaking into a house, he because he’s secretly smitten by her, she because the house belongs to her real mother who gave her out for adoption. Jordan Cowan and Michael Smith are lovely together in their perfect representation of the naive promise of young love combined with the enormous distraction of a personal experience into which no lover can follow.
Then we have the beautifully written pieces that focus on the experiences of teens as they make their first horror encounters with a cruel world. In Sure by Julia Patey a young woman takes a bold and progressive action only to find she doesn’t have the necessary maturity to stand by that conviction when she might have made a terrible mistake. Domina Roebuck performs this in front of a camera so the audience see a faint shadow of her both behind the curtain and on the screen in front of her. Caitlin Richardson’s Night Shift performed by Airlie Dodds combines the imagined free will in youthful drive only to wake up and find circumstances propel her toward her mothers destiny and it is hard to tell friend from foe. Night Shift has a chilling and visually resplendent relationship with props, as if the objects around us form a kind of jail whose awareness comes too late to affect change.
Two by Two written by Sharni McDermott and performed by Gemma Scobie, The Baby Elephant Walk written by Joel Burrows and performed by Patrick Cullen and Petrol Station written by Kathleen Quere and performed by Katy Avery reveal the horror as young people wake up to the world of adults, and start to see that what happens in public is often laced with the secrets of what is going on behind closed doors. And for a touch of the surreal, Callan Purcell’s Leo and the Ant and Amanda Yeo’s Pink Hair, performed by Christian Charisiou and Kelly Huynh respectively give us the young adults world from a boy obsessed with ants and a blind girl who thinks she’d look great with pink hair.
Director Sarah Parsons makes careful mention of the talent around her in her introduction notes in the program and her enthusiasm for these very clever young people shines through the production. They’re all well directed, while also given a certain amount of freedom to allow their personality to reach through to the captivated audience. The small segue moments, where the cast run from room to room, set up the next scene or moves themselves to participate in an unmoving background tell the audience that we are not alone no matter how deep and wounding our secrets may be. And yet, in a universe as large and diverse as our own we watch these young people growing into the world around them as they come to the realisation we all live with; that essentially we only have ourselves and our secrets in the end.