By Lisa Lanzi
A spare school hall transformed as an in-the-round theatre space, a lyrical new work by Finegan Kruckemeyer, a talented cast of high school actors from Running With Scissors Ensemble (Adelaide High School) and direction by David Tyler. What an amazing start to my DreamBIG Festival experience and a huge pleasure to see a generation of actors in their formative years. We enter through the fairly non-descript front entrance of Adelaide High School and wait in a small foyer with no decoration (other than school trophies and team photographs) and wonder if we are in the right place! Fortunately we are; finally the double doors open to the theatre space/school hall and then the magic can begin. It is wonderful to leave the craziness and negativity of the Federal Election behind and dive into another fabulous Festival here in Adelaide.
Hymn to the Hateful is a new theatre work by the talented, internationally acclaimed and much awarded Kruckemeyer and was created through discussion with the student ensemble. The piece is separated into scenic episodes, plus prologue and epilogue, each announced by a cast member by its title and the ‘genre’ of hate we are about to enter. The audience are witnesses to hate (or conflict) in various forms and circumstances, for instance love/hate, private hate, public hate, group hate, societal hate, cultural hate. Some episodes explode with energy and feature the entire cast and some are more contained with only one or two main actors within the scene.
The lyricism of the words imparts an atmosphere of concentration and contemplation. As the work unfolds it is tempting to gaze inward at your own life and experiences because of the power in the narrative and the way you might reflect on your own past or present circumstances in relation to the action on stage. The writing and all the imagery it projects is quite profound and the text is poetic but coherent and at times almost stream-of-consciousness in feel. This complexity is both a gift and a challenge for these young performers. Fortunately they have risen to this challenge and deliver very polished performances.
Overall, the ensemble of young men and women was outstanding due in no small part, I am sure, to their teacher and director David Tyler, himself a trained actor. Their stage presence and commitment to their roles was excellent and the complex text and dialogue was performed with nuanced skill and ease. Some actors were better able to use their voice with good degrees of subtlety while some still need to work on vocal technique as a few times they were difficult to hear or became a little shrill trying to keep the volume up in a large space. I found this ensemble to be highly professional. It delights me that a group with so much on their plate as school students can still be this good in a demanding work within a Festival. South Australia has always been a leader in the area of the arts within the school curriculum and despite teacher and funding shortages and more administrative demands on our existing teachers, there are still shining examples of dance and theatre excellence in Adelaide schools.
Tyler’s direction was confident and comprehensive and used the in-the-round format to perfection. He demanded much from the cast with the action taking place throughout the space and the multiple entrances and exits. Action off-stage and into the first row of the audience was also a feature which gave a sense of inclusion for the audience as we alternated roles between observers and participants. The masterful use of movement and physicality was blended beautifully with the text and gave the work another layer of intricacy. Again, the performers took on this added layer with perfect assurance.
There was a team of support staff working their magic to bring this work to performance level : Movement trainer Michaela Moors, musical contributions from Bradley Wilček and Grace Richter-Gilbert and costumes by Lisa Kriaris and Catherine Aldous. The costuming was understated but fascinating with creatively patchworked fabric tops that included supermarket receipts, photographs, pompoms and more in the design so that each character had a completely individual look. The lighting and production design by Matthew Ralph was also a great asset to the production.
Hymn to the Hateful was specially commissioned for the Running With Scissors Ensemble and is an insightful look into the spread of hatred and its effect on today’s society. Performed by students for students, the work hopes to turn negativity on its head : a “how to guide for the hopeful”. May it have a long life and be seen by many!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.