A sold out black box theatre space and ten minutes to do pretty much whatever you want.
The prospect must surely be quite daunting but it was a diverse range of pieces tonight, from drama to comedy to dance.
First up was Flaming Youth, directed by Lucy Clements and performed by Kieran Wych and Chloe Evangelisti. Here the brother (by adoption) of a young woman is urgently summoned to her aid. There is the usual sibling angst until the woman drops a bombshell on what really happened to her. The young man wants to kill her boyfriend until another twist comes to the fore. The problem for me was that there wasn’t enough emotional heft here to convince me of the bombshell in the first place. So when the ‘twist’ came it didn’t feel surprising or affect me in the way that was intended. That said, extremely difficult to explore the darker aspects of sex and dating in such a short period of time.
The two performers walk off stage and are replaced by Zane Alexander, Verity Softly and two beach chairs. His character likes her's but she isn’t really interested. What follows is some lovely physical comedy as Alexander’s character inches ever closer and even at one point makes a paper seagull to impress her; mixed with some terse barbs from Softly’s increasingly annoyed woman who just wants to enjoy the sunshine. That style of comedy that comes from the inherent awkwardness of a situation and a character trapped within it. The only query I had was that later in the piece Softly began to make asides to the audience that weren’t perhaps necessary as both actors were very skilled in conveying their character’s emotions and thoughts in a piece called It’s Only A…
Then we had Emma Marie Davis alone in the corner to begin Quiet. Tragically, she has been pronounced an introvert which her mother fears will surely cripple her in life. I liked that Davis was all backed up in the shadows and only slowly moved to centre stage as she discovers an obsession to draw her into the world. We soon learn this involves lots of yelling in the competitive realm of… netball refereeing. Most amusingly all the signs used to signal infractions are turned into a dance as Davis sings and charms us during her conversion to extroversion.
The first half ended with a very interesting slam poem and compelling performance by Haydon Wilson in Contentment in B Minor where he plays an alcoholic. I cringed at the start as he accuses his wife of cheating and details his muscular response. This promised not to be a likeable character by any stretch of the imagination. But then something strange happened – there was an honesty and rawness here as the character embraces who he is which revolves around, for better or worse, the copious consumption of beer. It was a very good performance as it treaded the fine line between audience aversion and engendering fascination in a character that defied the usual expectations.
After a short interval we recommenced with solo performer, Natalya Alessi who danced to the rhythmic sound of breathing in A Simple Act. Lithe and serene, this was a celebration of the beauty of the human body in motion. Towards the end of the piece a voiceover intoned interesting statistics about the amount of breaths we take in the course of a lifetime performing different functions. The true fascination, however, was in the mesmerising and elegant moves of Alessi in the dimness, mood lighting provided stage right.
Chloe King and Claudia Tati followed in a piece written by King and directed by Ali Roberts called Darling Daughter. The apple of her mother’s eye (Tati) exhibits all the recklessness of youth the moment mummy dearest leaves for nightshift work. She finds herself in a certain predicament with a guy at school that is echoed in King’s flashback retelling of her character’s own experiences as a girl the same age. There is a lovely symmetry in the parallel trajectories here and both actresses play multiple roles to flesh out the world of the tale. A heartfelt ending as two generations come together over a shared experience years apart. It was a well-structured and performed piece that made maximum use of the allotted time.
Finally, another performance piece, this time by two male (Russell Thorpe and Scott Elstermann) and two female dancers (Ayesha Kats and Rikki Bremner) called It’s Strange To Remember A Touch Over A Thought. This was a superb piece that not only celebrated the human form but beauty in synchronisation and touch. The suppleness and connection between the performers was absolutely enchanting as they moved with sublime confidence to an electronic backing of songs. I found this enthralling.
Then it was all over as the last dancer slid off stage and the house lights came on. It was a terrific mix of quite different performances that made the task of voting for a favourite very difficult. Yes, there is a competitive element to all this as audience favourites get to perform again in a Best Of night. If this is the quality to expect from all four programs then those evenings will be quite something!
600 Seconds is at The Blue Room until 14 February, however, I believe all remaining sessions are sold out. On this outing I can see why.