By Grant Virtue
It was nice to see a performance at La Mama's Court House Theatre. I have not seen a La Mama Production since the devastating fire in May 2018. Walking in it felt like meeting old friends despite not knowing a soul. The Old Court House Theatre built in 1887 has a stern and foreboding presence, probably due to its Gothic architecture. It also has a strength and a welcome silence to its walls. It is a small and intimate Theatre. Very, very old school!.
The play is a new work by creator and performer Suzie Hardgrave. It is a play about social constructs, identity, insecurity and human frailty. It challenges the notion of what it means to truly 'disappear'. Is it an act of defiance, necessity or strategy?. Is it terminal?, or indeed a renaissance?.
The narrative is driven through the eyes of an insecure actor. The themes and the narrative are universal, but I did wonder if the piece would be as enjoyable to a non-industry audience.
Suzie Hardgrave handles this solo show like a sports car, she drives fast and furious. She is relentless. This is a physical piece of theatre requiring a lot of energy and skill from the performer. I must mention here that Sarah Cathcart who was the Movement Advisor has done a great job.
Suzie plays the vulnerability and insecurity to a T but never seems to cross over into self-indulgence. I find this is to be a real danger with solo shows especially if the creator is also the performer. This is in part due to her strong writing skills and balanced performance. We can empathise with the character, indeed seeing a little of ourselves in her.
I found myself wondering though, am I invested in the character? I'm still not sure.
Suzie is a great performer. She can cast a spell and draw you in. You can feel her pain. Any actor who can hold their own in a solo show has my complete admiration. Her voice and enunciation were perfect, I did, however, get a little distracted by her accent. Aussie but a little bit British, a little bit Cockney. This may well have been intentional. She has incredible energy and stamina, never breaking into a sweat. It is hard to take your eyes off her.
Bronwyn Pringle's lighting design was on point, creating a surreal environment with perfect spotlighting and fantastic use of the smoke machine. Her set design was perfectly austere but intricate. There were many glorious surprises hidden with that set. A small detractor for me was that I could see into the wings of stage right which kept pulling my focus.
I particularly enjoyed Chris Wenn's soundscape. It was unnerving. Both haunting and beautiful. It also became quite visceral and uncomfortable at times, punctuating the text. I found myself getting lost in the soundscape then being pulled abruptly back to the action, which was great.
Alister Smith's direction was accomplished, working the space perfectly. The light and shade of the text perfectly balanced with walls and no walls. Intensity and reprieve marked with measured pacing. The perfect blocking using the warmth and coldness of the stage. The ardent intimacy. I particularly liked the use of animated text and using the narrator as a performer.
I really enjoyed this performance and the space. It was cozy and safe, but intimate and confronting. It left me questioning my own preconceptions of equality, introspection and gender. I love leaving a performance with more questions than answers.
Thanks La Mama,
Now time for me to.....disappear!!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.