Review by Abbie Gallagher
Little Eggs Collective is one of those theatre companies whose work is always cause for intrigue and anticipation. Founded in 2015, their fascinating and unique approach to devised physical theatre has led to sell-out seasons and well deserved awards. Now they’re back, with a strict Covid Safe plan and a brand new show in time for Mardis Gras.
As a production, Little Eggs’ Symphonie Fantastique is a theatrical journey through a sea of confronting and heavy themes. Violence, assault, sexuality, drug use, hallucinations, entitlement, nothing is taboo and nothing is off the table in this theatre. But quite honestly, if we can’t explore such things in the theatre, where can we explore them at all?
I must preface this review with a disclaimer. While a staunch ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, I do not identify as a member of it, so my thoughts are coming from a completely different perspective than others. That being said, there is a great deal to admire in this production, both on and off the stage.
Symphonie Fantastique was written by French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. It is an autobiographical piece based upon Berlioz’s obsession with actor Harriet Smithson, who repeatedly rejected his advances and is considered to be a master of storytelling through music. However, this interpretation seriously questions if Berlioz truly deserves such acclaim due to his ego and misconduct. Creating celebrated art of any kind does not launder real-world misdeeds.
Director Mathew Lee has gathered an exceptional group of extremely diverse and gifted performers. Lloyd Allison-Young, Cassie Hamilton, Clare Hennessy, Nicole Pingon, Annie Stafford, Chemon Theys and LJ Wilson deserve nothing but the highest praise for their fearless approach to some triggering topics (very grateful for the content warning!). Running the gambit of emotions and at times bizarre scenarios, their stellar ensemble work is nothing short of breathtaking with split-second timing and seamless transitions. The hours of rehearsal and vulnerability with each other is obvious, and something that is essential in the arts.
Music Director/Sound Designer Oliver Shermacher (assisted by performer Clare Hennessy) pulls off an eclectic mix of a contemporary soundscape, classical and acapella vocals without ever overpowering the action onstage. Special mention must go to Set and Lighting designer Benjamin Brockman, who has created something truly masterful with his work, not an easy feat for this space.
Although there is a clear vision for the narrative and themes, the beauty of what Little Eggs has created is that the piece could be interpreted many different ways just like the composition itself has been over centuries. Literally or metaphorically, what I may take away from watching devised theatre is unlikely to be identical to what a fellow audience member sees. After all, nobody ever understands art exactly the same way as the next person. Overall this is where the magic of all artistry lies. Context, intent, design and execution is all subjective when done well, but companies like this collective are a prime example of art objectively being done extremely well on a fundamental level regardless of personal tastes.
Little Eggs only deserves to be applauded for their courageous, innovative approach to theatre and their contribution to the Australian art scene. They once again reminded me that music is truly the one language we all speak. And what a joy it is to be back in the theatre!
Photo Credit: Patrick Boland