Review: Between Us (ATYP)

atypVenue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Feb 4 – 21, 2015
Director: Sarah Parsons
Playwrights: Joel Burrows, Tahlee Fereday, Sharni McDermott, Tom Mesker, Julia Patey, Kathleen Quere, Callan Purcell, Caitlin Richardson, Fiona Spitzkowsky, Amanda Yeo.
Cast: Katy Avery, Christian Charisiou, Jordan Cowan, Patrick Cullen, Rebecca Cuttance, Airlie Dodds, Kelly Huynh, Lucia May, Dominic Roebuck, Gemma Scoble, Michael Smith
Image by Tracey Schramm

Theatre review (of preview performance)
The ten short pieces in Between Us are connected by the idea of secrets. These young Australian stories range from the deep and dark to the wonderfully inspired, all with a personal and revelatory perspective that aim to divulge something truthful. Nine are monologues, perhaps a reflection on the introspective nature of early adulthood. We do not get fervent commentary on our society and politics, but we are certainly witness to a fierce interrogation into human behaviour and its nature.

Direction by Sarah Parsons is adventurous and quite masterful. Her courageous use of space gives emotional and spacial dimension to each piece, respecting their individually distinct voices, and allowing their individual idiosyncrasies to take shape on stage. Transitions are sensitively and creatively manoeuvred so that the experience is fluid and cohesive as an integrated entity, while each writer’s own colour is staunchly retained. Parsons’ work with actors is wildly impressive in Between Us. Every segment is performed with surprising depth and sophistication, so that characters are meaningful beyond their ten minutes of showtime. We are drawn into these bite sized moments, sometimes seeing with astonishing clarity what is being expressed, and sometimes seduced into a sense of intrigue that leaves us hungry for more.

Fiona Spitzkowsky’s Accidents Happen is a remarkably funny yet brutal piece about parenting and ambition. Her blend of the macabre with a casual, almost unassuming everyday humour is a thrill to experience. Performed by Rebecca Cuttance with impeccable timing and focus, this is a programme highlight that exemplifies the intelligence and talent that is being showcased at ATYP. Pink Hair by Amanda Yeo is written with beautiful structure and shrewd acumen. It is technically accomplished, but also visceral and engaging. Kelly Huynh’s interpretation gives a magnetism and moving humanity to the play’s protagonist, and we are enthralled by her thorough authenticity and precision, without the actor having to move a limb more than once or twice during the segment’s entire duration. Also noteworthy are the production’s three male players, Christian Charisiou, Patrick Cullen and Michael Smith, all memorable for their refreshing and solid presences, and conspicuous, burgeoning star quality.

There is so much to like about Between Us, including its design aspects and technical proficiencies. Melanie Liertz’s set and Alexander Berlage’s lights are outstanding, and stage management is executed to perfection by Olivia Benson and her crew. It is almost unbelievable that these short plays can conspire to deliver something so substantial and rewarding, but it does. It is no secret that the Australian Theatre for Young People is a crucial element in the continuing progress of our artistic landscape, but on this occasion, the stepping stone has itself become a thing to celebrate.