Venue: PACT Theatre (Erskineville NSW), July 20 – 25, 2015
Director: Katrina Douglas
Cast: Courtney Ammenhauser, Alicia Dulnuan Demou, Amber Jacobs, Carissa Licciardello, Jessica McKerlie, Tasha O’Brien, Mitchell Whitehead, Steve Wilson Alexander, Dubs Yunupingu
Image by Katy Green Loughrey
Presented by a group of young artists studying the theatrical arts through the exploration of spacial awareness, physical training and team rapport, Listen! I’m Telling You Stories is an earnest demonstration of their journey as apprentices of performance. Each creates a short vignette offering varying degrees of insight into their life and mind, but it is not the content of what they have to say that is actually fascinating. The show is a cohesive and sensitive amalgamation of nine lives brought together temporally, and we witness their creative energies in motion, all focused on generating something purposeful, at least from their own perspective. What results is a succinct work, under an hour, that is more about practice than communication. Their approach is a sincere one, and although engaging for its duration, no great resonance is sustained beyond the curtain call.
There is a beautiful uniformity in the ensemble’s voice and attitude for the piece. Our attention goes to a singular entity of the whole, even though disparate elements are always present in the work’s intelligent plurality. Direction by Katrina Douglas brings out the strengths of her performers and successfully balances the individual with the group, so that the piece always feels even. The work of designers, Amber Silk (lighting) and Peter Kennard (sound) are prominent features that give the production polish and depth, in the absence of a compelling script. Our eyes and ears are ingeniously and constantly surprised in the show, and the sense of wonder provided by the team is a notable achievement, but there is nothing that seems to be able to connect on a more meaningful, or perhaps emotional, level.
On many levels, Listen! I’m Telling You Stories appears to be experimental, with inventive modes of expression a distinguishing feature. At the same time, there is a safeness to the production’s artistic choices that keeps it from being more exuberant or idiosyncratically memorable. Artists in training need to understand rules and gain skills that will help them attain their visions for the stage, but often it is in the calculated abandonment of those standards that something spectacular can materialise.