Review: Everything I Learned At NIDA‏ (Pact Centre For Emerging Artists)

kylewalmsleyVenue: PACT Theatre (Erskineville NSW), Sep 8 – 12, 2015
Playwright: Kyle Walmsley
Director: Kyle Walmsley
Cast: Kyle Walmsley

Theatre review
The beauty of youth cannot be divorced from its anxieties, frustrations and arrogance. Kyle Walmsley’s Everything I Learned At NIDA is about a young man’s experiences with acting teachers, and his struggles at balancing his ego with the acquisition of skills that promise fame and glory. It is also extremely funny and outstandingly detailed in its observations of clichés in that particular field of education. Walmsley performs the show not as a student, but as the condescending and self-absorbed instructor who treats his crowd as though we are desperate and ignorant parish at his church. His style ranges from very subtle to ridiculously bombastic, and the show’s comedic effectiveness keeps growing through the duration. It is a caustic tone that drives the production, and although the approach can seem juvenile, the material is substantial enough for rumination after the laughter subsides.

Walmsley’s abilities as comedian, writer and director are all impressively showcased. It is a highly idiosyncratic presentation, but with finely tuned nuances that engage us in often clever and unexpected ways. There is a bold and crass sensibility to his brand of humour, but Walmsley does not rely on cheap or vulgar laughs. His punchlines are genuinely hilarious. In many ways similar to a stand-up format, his very acute sensitivity to our responses and his hunger for attention, creates a level of engagement that is immediate and thrilling. His fondness of audience participation certainly keeps us on edge.

The work is cagey when it comes to the artist’s own feelings and beliefs about his time at NIDA, but a lot is revealed through his portrayal of the culture he had experienced. The tension between talent and effort, and the conundrum of being true to oneself while abandoning the ego, are questions about art education that come into focus. Institutions can provide answers, but the student has to choose whether to learn. Places and personalities hold valuable opportunities for development, and the individual must decide how best to make their dreams come true.