Daniela Giorgi and Paul Gilchrist are two of the most enigmatic figures on Sydney’s indie theatre scene. Together, they comprise subtlenuance, one of Sydney’s most vital, active, prolific and innovative small production companies. Gilchrist is a observant, skilled and underexposed playwright and director; Giorgi a gun producer and writer also.
This time out, they’ve stepped out of their usual frame, to lend their support to the work of other writers, directors and actors, in a series of six short solo works. Even the venue is novel: a long disused drill hall by Rushcutters Bay park, erstwhile home to a dance company and a characteristically innovative theatre space. You can forget costume, lighting and sets: aside from the odd prop and some sound design, there’s not a lot going on technically, which lends all the greater impetus to the work.
Billed as “six bold expeditions into the human heart”, they more than suffice as such. The first piece, Sharks Can Smell Fear, was written by Alison Rooke, and is performed by Bridgette Sneddon. It’s directed by the increasingly busy and versatile Zoe Carides, who now sports a honed maturity in both this craft, as well as finesse in her acting. A woman, crippled by anticipation, anxiety, fear and uncertainty about motherhood, toys with bending all the rules about avoiding shark attack, as she fantasises about her baby being taken. In a darkly poetic (physically, as well as verbally), aquatic reflection, Rooke has hit upon a powerful metaphor for the act of creation, whether of a child, a play, or one’s own life. Invbention and reinvention is a terrifying thing and, in the pairing of Sneddon and Carides, Rooke has found the most wonderful expression of her work.
The Line We Draw was written by Skye Loneragan and is performed by same. In a kind of acute free verse rendering that might’ve come from Shakespeare were he alive today and on uppers, Loneregan poses provocative questions, with the most vigorous, surefooted delivery imaginable. “When you’re an adult, noone looks at your drawings to see how you are” is the premise, and it opens up a hornet’s nest. Who checks up on, or even cares, how we are coping, as adults? While children, or even pets, are monitored for the slightest aberration, defect and deviation, we’re almost entirely on our own; we’re just expected to cope with life’s vagaries. And when or where do we find expression? When do we have the time to draw, or play and, thus, vent the frustrations we feel? It’s powerful stuff, delivered with incisive wit and utterly compelling confidence.
Unsex Me, while quite arresting and amusing, took too long to unfurl and lacked the focus of the other solo spots. Devised by Nick Atkins and Michael Imielski, it’s performed by the first and directed by the last. While Imielski clicks cameras and works sound, Atkins’ mike stand becomes a sensuous partner and he dances himself from loneliness into imaginary consummation. It’s sweet, almost poignant, but never quite hits its stride, or the mark.
From A Great Height is also about the nerve-wracking business of love; in this case, office romance. In a very short, frenetic space of time, Luke Carson, directed by Karl Raisbeck in Mark Konik’s play, talks himself out of the fact thjat someone out there really likes him, convincing himself she must’ve felt awkward and obligated to reflect as much, as it couldn’t possibly be true. It has all the heart and a gentler, more sympathetic humour, as well as a concise brevity, that Unsex Me needs.
It’s OK To Ask was written by Carol Dance and is directed by Bev Callow. As outstandingly good as the other actors in the room on the night were, Renee Lim excels and is spellbinding as a courageous paraplegic. My theatre buddy pointed out that it’s rare to get an inside track on this kind, or other kinds, of disability. Which led me to think, there are Shakespeare festivals, short play festivals, all kinds of festivals. There are paralympics. But where is the paraplay festival, or the like? Dance, Callow and Lim dance their way through this insightful, connective, deceptively short and sweet, but significant work.
So It’s That Kind Of Quest is fun and featherweight, dissecting, in obsessive detail worthy of a thesis, the phenomenon that is Bieber. Written by David Finnegan, directed by Erica J Brennan and performed by Corinne Marie. Several of the plays reach through the fourth wall, but this one sledgehammers it and enlists audience participation. It’s good-natured, entertaining and a ruthless parody of manufactured minor popstars. That’s got to be good and Marie pulled it off with aplomb.
Gilchrist and Giorgi rarely disappoint and, here, they’ve excelled themselves; in their own right, but also in showing, on the whole, profound programmatic judgement. I sure hope Bare Boards becomes a regular thing.
The details: Bare Boards Brave Heart played The Drill Hall until June 25.