By Tatum Stafford
There was an air of anticipation as the audience of Friday night’s performance of The Nature of Why gathered amongst the show’s musicians, dancers and creatives in a green room at the State Theatre. Once the pre-show acknowledgement of country, guidelines and context were provided, it was clear this was going to be a very special show.
Presented by The British Paraorchestra, The Nature of Why addresses the theories of philosopher Richard Feynman. Audio of Feynman’s interviews (humorously “ripped from YouTube” according to composer Will Gregory), was played at the beginning and throughout the piece; providing an excellent thematic through-line for each of the performance’s 9 sections.
Once the pre-show discussion with Caroline Bowditch drew to a close, we were instructed to make our way through a corridor to the performance space, which to our delight was the state of the Heath Ledger Theatre: one of the most seminal theatres in Perth. I have seen countless incredible productions on that very stage, so it was quite surreal to be treading the boards as part of this immersive and unique theatrical experience.
The stage was adorned with hanging lightbulbs that were coordinated to each piece of music by a man weaving through the crowd with an iPad, which really added to the immediacy and specificity of each moment in the piece. As the first song began, dancers began to weave lyrically through audience members, and the composer and string section established their position on a platform near the front of the stage.
One of the most memorable parts of this piece lies within audience interaction. On a collective scale, there were many moments involving groups of audience members alongside dancers. However, on a much more intimate level, we were advised that following our own points of interest would lead to a completely unique experience – and as such, some one-on-one moments with the performers. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place and time for one of these moments, and had a giggle when a cellist in the corner leant on my arm and winked as he continued performing.
Though the piece’s middle sections were incredibly choreographed and highlighted some beautiful moments of music and musicians, its ending saw a few audience members visibly moved. Soaring, beautiful music began playing, and the dancers dove into groups of audience members to create a joyous dance circle of people of all ages. Seeing small children dance with the elderly and people in wheelchairs dance with the assistance of complete strangers was something I will never forget.
The pure joy emanating within the room truly reminded me of one of the pivotal reasons why I love theatre: the collective experience of everyone in that evening’s performance can never be recreated or relived. The immediacy and skill in which these performers conveyed ideas about “why” was absolutely remarkable; and above all, this was an unforgettable theatrical experience that highlighted the beauty of human connection – that I feel very privileged to have been a part of.
Photo Credit: Toni Wilkinson
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.