Review by James Mukheibir
For a little while now, the world has felt like it is teetering on a precipice. Waving and wandering near the edge of something. It has gone beyond what was known but not yet arrived at a tangible place that can give young people the defined purpose that we desperately crave but cannot find, spinning out and reaching for any stability to quell our dizziness and disorientation.
This liminal energy emanates from every corner of the ambitious production of Collapsible by Red Line Productions at the wonderful Old Fitz Theatre. Hayden Relf’s set pulls in hallmarks of a threshold: the doors of a lift, a water cooler, nondescript chairs that only seem to exist to populate waiting rooms. This is where we meet Ester. Brought to life with manic energy and cynical charm by Janet Anderson, Essie is on a precipice of her own. In between jobs, in between relationships, in between a sense of sanity, gripping desperately to the perceptions of others to remind herself that she does, in fact, exist.
This (mostly) monologue pushes onwards relentlessly, driven by the dynamic presence of Andersen who flits between characters with admirable agility, and elevated by innovative multimedia design by Daniel Herten and Morgan Moroney. The use of cameras is tight and brings a new dimension to the space, expanding the intimate Old Fitz stage with new angles and dimensions explored using the live cameras. Kip WIlliams’ influence is certainly felt in this production and it is incredibly impressive to see this indie team pull off this ambitious feat, presumably without the seven figure sums bandied about in Walsh Bay.
The use of these livestreams were well-integrated with the meticulous movement and other design elements curated by Zoë Hollyoak and Morgan Moroney, along with their team. Small touches such as a subtle capture of a tiny model of Ester helped at symbolism to the rapid spiral playing out in front of the audience. Every move was aligned with where a camera or projection would be, and it felt perfectly suited to the social performance and scrutiny that leads to meltdowns like Essie’s becoming more common. She was exposed and vulnerable as she sought out validation in the people around her, searing with anger when that validation came loaded with expectations or pity. It is a sad reality, but the production handles Margaret Perry’s sardonic script with care and empathy, giving depth to the light and the dark of the deteriorating Essie.
There is only one moment that features another actor. Their character has been mentioned and played with a cutting dismissal by our flawed narrator but now we see them for who they are, their gentle spirit the first breath taken in the rapid spiral that has been playing out in front of the audience. There is quiet and a moment of calm. Beyond screens and cameras, there is interaction and emotional connection, perfectly captured in the chemistry between the performers. For once, Ester’s experience is shared.
Image Credit: Phil Erbacher