Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 9 – Apr 1, 2023
Writer: Margaret Perry
Directors: Zoë Hollyoak, Morgan Moroney
Cast: Janet Anderson
Images by Phil Erbacher
Esther is asking everyone she knows, for a word to describe herself. In Margaret Perry’s Collapsible, we see the strange things a person does, when deep in the process of job hunting. Esther contorts her personality into different forms, in hopes that she may be perceived as a right fit, for one of the many organisations that she is interviewing with. We observe someone trying to be all things to all people, and ultimately becoming an empty vessel, knowing nothing about herself, from trying to appeal to an economy determined to reward mediocrity and that encourages one to shed their values and principles.
There is an abundance of abstraction in Perry’s writing, which Zoë Hollyoak and Morgan Moroney use as directors of the piece, to deliver something memorable for its rich visuals. Although unpredictable and exciting with its sense of theatricality, the show can feel somewhat hollow, which admittedly is an accurate representation of Esther’s essence. A more intense depiction of anxiety and unease, that accompanies the existential angst being reflected, could perhaps make the experience more worthwhile.
Set and costumes by Hayden Relf offer surprising solutions, that make for a quirky staging that sustains our attention, in what could easily have been a very understated one-woman show. Video projections by Daniel Herten and Moroney, are ambitiously rendered but offer little other than a demonstration of an experimental spirit. Lights, also by Moroney, are a more satisfying aspect of the production, delivering great texture and atmospheric transformations. Herten’s sound design is wonderfully lively, but could benefit from a greater sensitivity in approach.
Actor Janet Anderson is thoroughly captivating as Esther, with an impressive degree of control over the challenging material being explored. Emotional aspects of Anderson’s performance could be more delicately managed, but her vigorous physicality keeps us engrossed.
It is not only for financial reasons that Esther loses herself, but also the pressures of social conformity, that pushes her to twist her soul, into something that prioritises external expectations. We are not certain if Esther has forgotten herself, or if she had indeed ever truly known herself. The hard part of being, is to arrive at a state of knowing the self. To navigate life only in bewilderment, is unquestionably tragic.