I pootled off alone to the Little Theatre Complex to do a bit of the Out The Box festival this evening. It was so cool to see lots of people hanging around, having drinks and going to see stuff. There was a real festival vibe and lots of energy and even a little pita stand. In the box office (I now knew it was in the Little Theatre foyer) there were people hearing that the shows they wanted to see were sold out!
First up was Under The Stars, Above the Tree, written and performed by Andrew Laubscher and Jon Keevy and directed by Sanjin Muftic. It’s a fable tale, coming of age, boy to man story, told with great visuals, a clever set and puppets and a tight and quirky use of technology. I really enjoyed it.
The set, black poles at weird branch angles on a stage, was very effective. One of my favourite things were the headlamps that both performers used to light themselves, the puppets and the painting/slide show which was filmed and projected live. Brilliant. And gorgeous. I loved the soundscape of natural sounds and music. I loved the physical stuff, mainly by Andrew as the climbing boy.
My suggestions to improve it: I had a nagging feeling that characters could have been bolder and clearer. Also, I found the journey a little repetitive in style; with each character the boy meeting along his journey imparting their words of wisdom in more or less the exact same way. For all that, I still found it enchanting, delightful and beautiful to watch.
Then came Suckle, written and directed by Leila Anderson with Andrew Laubscher (miraculously taking half an hour to go from one show to the other), Kati Francis, Tamarin Mc Ginley, Briony Horwitz, Nathan Fredricks and Alicia McCormick. Now it’s not often that I can be totally clear about calling something absolutely and totally horrible, but this was it. It was the worst thing I have seen in ages. From the moment it started I wanted to leave, escape, run away. But I was trapped in an awkward seating arrangement, facing half of the audience, with the grunting actors doing weird stuff in between. I don’t have a single good word to say about the agonising fifty or so minutes that felt like an eternity. It was fractured, obvious, fragmented, indulgent, boring, trite, unsubtle, pretentious and agonising. There was nothing funny, moving, meaningful, significant or beautiful. The story was garbled and repetitive. There were no proper characters. There was lots of loud, well pronounced talking. There was lots of moving up and down, lying down, rolling, boxes piled and unpiled. It was totally unrelenting. At one point the main guy (I knew this cos he wore a suit and did most of the Who am I? where am I? stuff), or was it someone else? says, "I deserve this. I’ve worked hard.", and all I could think was, "Hell no, nobody deserves this." When I folded myself into resignation that it couldn’t get worse it did. There was a scene where two (I imagine talented) actresses play children! Omigod! It gets worse. The whole thing apparently had to do with the main guy leaving his family when they find out his beloved sister had cancer! But not before there is this totally meaningless scene where three girls (singing David Bowie’s Let’s Dance?) wet their hair in a weirdly lit old tin bath, and do this totally unexplainable topless thing. It was so embarrassing and humiliating. Towards the end, main guy says (in justification, I think) "I wasn’t ready to die." But by then I was.