Playground a New World Order is at the Arts House, Meat Market

Playground a New World Order is at the Arts House, Meat Market

Playground, devised by Panther, a pair of performance artists from Melbourne, is an attempt to walk a line between performance art, audience participation and installation with an emphasis on site intervention. Because of this multi faceted approach, Playground, although great fun, lacked cohesion.

The performance is for an audience of twelve, the less people that know each other the better. Coming out into the meat market proper, there is the playground. After a halted start we begin to play, directed by the two performers in charge. We white middle class adults are used to these games from childhood and take to them easily. During the game intricacies of behavior follow, for example the friends who came to the performance together, much more willing to play with each other than with the strangers sharing the space.

The main body of the piece, playing chasey, has the added element of the argument. This is an attempt to get to know each other, to tell each other of our strengths and weaknesses, real or imaginary. The rules change frequently, as happens in child’s play, as certain rules, forms of engagement, seem to work more than others, or as people in the space become confused by the complicated rules. This is what the piece is punctuated by, the rupture of the worlds of adults and children into a frenzied dialogue of physicality and words.

It is this avalanche of thoughts, behaviors, rules, and the difference between the adult and child’s body in play that Panther seem to be trying to highlight, a disentanglement that is not always coherent. The play is fun and chaotic, but so is the relationship of the audience to the two performers who are not entirely in charge. If this piece was tending more towards theatre maybe casting a pair of actors might have been better.

The laying out of rules, the highlighting of human behaviors, the ultimate feeling of loneliness that comes from chasing after strangers, desperate to make contact are all there, but members of the group are too either busy in the physical exertion of their play to concentrate, or are too busy forming cliques, sharing secrets in the space to listen to what those in charge are trying to say. This could work as an extended metaphor, which the chaos of life versus moments of introspection and anxiety are hard to separate. But at the end of the piece, when that juxtaposition is then highlighted by the artists, making it lose its subtlety.

But what the hey! I had a lot of fun. I mean a lot. We don’t get to play like that anymore, and if a certain amount of thoughtfulness and introspection comes from the piece in the end, then why not roll your sleeves up and dive into the tan bark.

Playground, a New World Order is at the Arts House, Meat Market, 5 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne.

Dates: Thursday, 13 August to Friday, 14 August at 6.15pm, 7.15pm and 9.15pm. Saturday, 15 August at 4.15pm, 6.15pm, 7.15pm and 9.15pm.
Tickets: $20
Bookings: Book at Easytix or phone (03) 9639 0096

Original Post:

Strangers In Between: The Store Room

Strangers In Between: The Store Room

You would think that staging a play in Melbourne based on Sydney’s gay male scene would be a difficult idea. Let’s face it, we denizens still have Kings Cross stuck in our craw, but Tommy Murphy’s Strangers in Between is too good to be hampered by inter-metropolitan tensions.

The play follows Shane (Aljin Abella), a very young, very naïve country New South Wales boy who has escaped to hip, freaky Kings Cross. There he finds the slightly older Will (Cameron Moore) and even older Peter (Bruce Kerr), representing typical, yet not stereotyped versions of gay Sydney, windows to Shane’s desire for comfort in his sexuality. But the picture is more complex. Shane’s naivety is not so country bumpkin, Peter’s old Sydney queen not the lecherous aged predator, and Will not the typical party boy copied straight out of Queer as Folk. The family that Shane has left behind is not so simplistic either, with the ominous figure of Shane’s brother Ben, also played by Moore, re-entering the story to colour Shane’s history, and by extension the story of his family, beyond the naïve ingénue done wrong by a conservative country town.

Govin Ruben’s lighting concept is refreshing. The Store Room has a very small space, and Ruben has designed their lighting states to complement the minimalist stage design and set changes. That being said the token gestures towards set were sometimes a bit awkward and unnecessary, for example the microwave and washing machine hiding within cupboards, or cans of soup being included in the apartment set when most of the other props are mimed.

The acting was also superb. This play is an actor’s dream; three generations, exploring a queer text, dialogue based in a small space. You can tell that all three players relish their parts, with each exploring the room their character has to give. Abella’s vulnerable Shane for his ultimate control over the dynamics of the play, Kerr for his experience, his offhanded and ultimately powerful approach to a role that could, ultimately, be based in stereotype and bias. And finally Moore, who handled his dual roles with grace, even when asked to transition on stage. Though his handling of the roles was apt, the character of Ben, Shane’s brother, has the weakest place in the story, and you can sense Moore struggling to make his character a worthy part of the mix, ultimately leading to a performance where technique triumphs over heart.

Strangers in Between is a well crafted work, made to fit snugly into the Store Room, with a talented group of actors and an innovative, if simple, design concept that made the text readily accessible and the most important and engaging aspect of the piece.

Little Death Produtions’ Strangers In Between by Tommy Murphy runs at The Store Room (131 Scotchmer St, North Fitzroy), Tuesday to Sunday until the 16th of August.

Original Post: