Review: Seeing Unseen (Old 505 Theatre)

old505Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Apr 8 – 26, 2015
Devised by: Gareth Boylan, Michael Cullen, Kerri Glasscock, Michael Pigott
Director: Gareth Boylan
Cast: Michael Cullen, Kerri Glasscock, Michael Pigott

Theatre review
Nature and technology are a convenient dichotomy. We like thinking that they are mutually exclusive, as though nature has no part to play in the advancement of technology, and we imagine an ideal state where the primitive is pure and only good. This romantic notion of a regression of time that could bring us back to some place better, is the catalyst for many of the ideas in Seeing Unseen. The work is surreal and abstract, and slightly science fiction in style, but the universe it depicts is familiar to us. It is concerned with our daily lives, with all our petty interests and preoccupations, except it amplifies and articulates the parts that should be automatic and unheeded, and everything becomes strange. The play is about relationships, human volition, memory and of course, technology. Its narrative is an odd one, and even though we understand all that is happening, the key to its purpose can only be found late into the piece. The mysterious nature of its structure is a hugely satisfying one that keeps us on our toes, and makes our minds work overtime, trying to put pieces together, and to construct meaning out of a deceptive and fractured text.

Performance styles by the outstandingly cohesive yet individually brilliant trio of Michael Cullen, Kerri Glasscock and Michael Pigott, run the gamut from soap opera naturalism to high art avant garde. The fluidity of form, and confidence in composition means that its very original mode of presentation, although unique and deeply interesting, never feels forced or patronising. We know that we are witnessing brave creativity in unorthodox motion, but it is engaging and friendly. Gareth Boylan’s direction is sensitive to his audience’s needs and capacities. He keeps us satisfied by providing our senses with what they crave, but always adds an extra dimension that causes a little disorientation. We are offered more than we bargain for, and it is thrilling. There is however, a sense of repetition in the plot that can outstay its welcome. The premise of the work is basic, and the way it manifests on stage does not vary enough over the hour long duration, and things become predictable towards its end.

Seeing Unseen gives our hearts and brains a good work out, leaving no place for feelings to hide, and no moment for the head to dull. The show is quiet but tense, and it lures you into its unusual explorations, sharing its passionate sense of wonder, but always holding back slightly and never explaining too much. If one is interested only in the moral of the story, there is frankly not a great deal to write home about, but understanding how this small team of artists turn energy, time and inspiration into a magical communal experience in an empty space, is terribly impressive. Art, like technology, is only meaningful when it moves forward, and on this occasion, the search for a new frontier has returned excellent results.