Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), May 20 – 29, 2021
Directors: Margot Politis, Natalie Rose
Cast: Harrison Bishop, Desmond Edwards, Lana Filies, Lily Hayman, Steve Konstantopoulos, Matthias Nudl, Nick Vagne, Lucy Watson
In Tiny Universe by Margot Politis and Natalie Rose, eight characters are contained within their own eight-foot cubes, pondering aloud, their relationships with the outside world. We hear about their anxieties and their dreams, as they offer anecdotes and introspections, from each of their intimate personal spaces. These people are alone, but also part of something bigger. As the audience’s attention is spread across each of these individuals, who only make themselves fleetingly available, we begin to form a picture of our collective existence, and an idea of what humanity can look like.
Unable to delve deep enough into any of these personalities, we can only appreciate the broad strokes of what is being presented. Even without the benefit of understanding the intricacies of what happens inside each box, Politis and Rose provides a tenderness to the treatment of their subjects, that move us to a certain state of empathy; both for those on stage, as well as the persons we are, silent and contemplative in our respective seats.
The performers are charming, and highly idiosyncratic with what they generously offer, in these stories about selfhood and of community. Attractive lighting by Liam O’Keefe proves memorable, for providing a pop aesthetic to the staging, that keeps sensibilities firmly in the now. James Peter Brown’s diverse musical stylings, usher us through a range of mood transformations, always gentle in his manipulation of feelings. Politis’ impactful set design is constructed by Will Jacobs and Sophie Ward, who bring to the production a pleasing sense of refinement.
It is perhaps in our solitude, that we can access that which is most true. Self-expression is often contingent on our expectation of how things will be received, but in Tiny Universe, we see the possibility of self-discovery in a way that is uncompromised, when we can find a space to be spared of judgement. This however, is much more involved, than to make the self physically detached. Society is so much in the mind, whether or not our bodies are in the company of others. Tiny Universe gives us examples of what could be, when a person simply exists on their own terms. We then lament how hard it is to remain as such, in interactions with the wider world.