– by Alice McShane
Inspired by chaos, Ice-Age brings together twenty new theatrical pieces to showcase throughout the You Are Here festival. The three disparate works I was to experience featured Shakespearean bathtubs, kidnapped prisoners and a beauty queen murder.
Seating ourselves amongst the assortment of furniture in Fletcher Jones, we were given a questionnaire to fill out for the first performance; Trinculo’s Bathtub. An earlier Google search of “Marat”, “Artaud” “Corday”, and “Trinculo” appropriately did nothing to prepare me for the strange reality of the Shadowhouse PITS piece. Despite the ghostly features, bare torso and angel wings, performer Joe Woodward was disarmingly self-aware, keeping us amused with aside quips (“Oh lord, the flies!”) and impromptu retorts. Just as Artaud saw no difference between dreams and reality, this Trinculo in his bathtub saw no difference between wisdom and inconsequence. Drifting in character between the enlightened historical figure Marat and the jester Trinculo, he did not seek to provide answers; rather, as he made clear, we were there to help him find the perfect question.
The second performance came from Emma Gibson and once again relied upon audience participation which was willingly given by the amiable crowd. Styled in a gorgeous vintage dress, she offered us tea and biscuits before recounting the tale of a dead beauty queen. Passionately, she attempted to sway us to the side of the killer, telling us that beauty corrupts us to our very core. She accused an unfortunate member of the audience of being a beauty queen, and announced that the best they could do for the world was leave it, garnering much amusement. Rising from her seat, she called on us to free women from our status as commodities through the noble pursuit of murder; but thankfully the crowd remained subdued.
The final performance was a staged reading of Michael Crowley’s The Cell by Drama-Free Productions. Condensed to thirty minutes and reappropriating its North England sensibilities to a more relatable ocker Australian style, the play’s tense, methodical rhythm brought a reverent hush upon the crowd. Working with a bare bones set, the cast made use of the limited stage area to craft an energetic piece with solid performances from all.
In keeping all three plays short, sweet and snappy, the audience’s attention is never tempted elsewhere. Light-hearted heckling made for a lively and altogether thoroughly engaging and unique night of theatre. If you loiter around Fletcher Jones long enough, you might just catch some more original works as Ice-Age continues its run with You Are Here.
Details: Dead Beauty Queens is on again Monday 18th at 7pm in Canberra Theatre Courtyard Studio, Wednesday 20th at 8pm at Fletcher Jones. Trinculo’s Bathtub and The Cell aren’t on again. Ice-Age continues until Saturday 23rd.
Alice currently works in regional television, occasionally writes television commercials but mostly writes film essays. Obviously she should be followed on twitter @aliceclaire, and at http://filmalice.wordpress.com/