By Lucinda Naughton
Malthouse Theatre together with Dublin-based theatre Pan Pan, co-founded by Gavin Quinn, present The Temple. Irish director Quinn and Nicola Dunn join forces with most of the comedically talented Australian cast to create the play, which follows five strangers on a kind of retreat course on How to Be Human. This theatre is impressively different.
The Temple satires the idea of self-improvement cults by throwing five people into a room and seeing what happens. It’s as though they’re in a course without a teacher – they’re just dumped and expected to sort out their problems. Thus, the play appears to be a kind of sociological experiment and the audience watches hungrily to see it unfurl as the characters spurt stories, memories, gags, and plenty of insults.
The cast of Aljin Abella, Ash Flanders, Genevieve Giuffre, Mish Grigor, and Marcus McKenzie work incredibly well together. They form a dysfunctional unit, in which there is interestingly no particular leader or protagonist; instead, they take turns in dominating scenes or getting bullied. Their immense energy, fast-paced and interrupting dialogue, great comedic skill, and interesting physicality are beyond engaging. Flanders and Grigor particularly stand out in their innovative mannerisms; Flanders’ wit shines.
The cast expertly and seamlessly manage to make the quick changes in topics and scenes; from comedy to drama – from teasing to tantrums, they smoothly fly on. Even the bizarre exercises or conversations they take part in, they never fail to lose their audience’s attention.
The script, created by Quinn, four of the cast (Abella, Flanders, Grigor, and McKenzie), and Nicola Gunn, is very quick and inventive. The humour lies in the script’s playfulness, the absence of personal boundaries between the characters, and the general unintentional bad behaviour. The humour is refreshingly original and genuine; hitting the mark every time.
The Temple explores themes of death, birth, and sex, which results in revealing the characters’ vulnerabilities, making them relatable to the audience while also making us feel uneasy about human nature.
The structure of the play is interesting; there’s use of a projector to title each of the scenes as they begin. Time seems to operate differently – jumping great gaps, but also continuing slowly in the room together. Perhaps at times, the period in between the scenes could have been tightened.
Quinn’s direction and staging are incredibly effective and an engaging way of portraying the characters, the mood of the piece, and the subject matters. All the staging is inventive, yet never detracts from the script or ideas. Perhaps there is a little too much time used on the characters setting up a couple of the scenes; however, these set ups are a great way to shift up the pace.
Aedín Cosgrove’s set and lighting design mirrors the mood of the piece perfectly. The yellow wall, and the simple chairs and tables, create a sense of place that is new and fresh, lacking in comfort, suggesting to the audience the room is not familiar to the characters. Harriet Oxley’s costume design hilariously and accurately portrays each character. Tom Backhaus’ sound design is surreal and adds much to the piece’s atmosphere, particularly in the set up scenes.
The Temple easily pulls off its bizarreness, a feat that you forget is difficult. The play is funny, engaging, and alludes to difficult themes concerning how or what we should be as humans.
Photo Credit: Pia Johnson
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.