Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jul 22 – Aug 2, 2014
Playwright: Gareth Ellis
Director: Peter Mountford
Cast: Taryn Brine, Tim Dashwood, Matt Longman, Rebecca Martin
There is a side to life and human nature that is dangerous and destructive. Many of us are fortunate enough not to have to dwell too deeply, physically and mentally, inside those spaces of terror. They are on the periphery and we battle constantly and unconsciously to keep them at bay, to protect ourselves from those dark sides, believing the unthinkable to be too unbearable for our fragile and feeble existences. In A View Of Concrete, Gareth Ellis writes about that darkness, featuring four characters each with quirks so offbeat and intense, that one might prefer to term them obsessions. Their shared experiences through illicit drug use proffer a view into their compulsive indulgences, and into our own fears about impulses we might secretly harbour and repress. Ellis’ script is an energetic one, with interesting personalities that are outrageous yet realistic.
Peter Mountford’s direction of the piece introduces considerable dynamism to the stage. There is a prominent choreographic aspect to his work that aims to engage us visually, which also demands of his cast, a level of exertion to keep energies high and sustained. Actor Tim Dashwood’s proficiency with the work’s physical requirements sets him apart, delivering a performance that combines seamlessly, speech with movement, for a theatrical form that is delightfully poetic. The fluency Dashwood displays with his actorly capacities is richly entertaining and impressive.
Also captivating is Taryn Brine, brimming with sensitivity in the role of Billie. Brine’s presence is raw and palpable like an open wound, contributing effectively to the production’s aura of decrepitude. Rebecca Martin plays the treble notes in the group, using her naturally vibrant demeanour to provide volume and power to the show. Matt Longman is subdued by comparison, but like others in the cast, he is genuine on stage and the focus and commitment to his part is clear to see.
This is a team keen on experimentation, and their creative approach to performance has conceived a show that is surprising and fresh. It does not make strong emotional connections, but it is thought-provoking nonetheless. The play is rigorous in its efforts at originality, but it feels distant, even clinical at times. A View Of Concrete reveals some of modern life’s difficulties, and shows us the insidious pain that exists. Its concepts are seductive, but the form it takes is slightly alienating. We want to feel the tragedy that we see before our eyes, but that indulgence is kept elusive.