Review: Decay (Eclective Productions)

eclectiveVenue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), May 19 – 24, 2015
Playwright: Melissa Lee Speyer
Director: Rachel Chant
Cast: Joel Horwood, Rosie Lourde
Image by Pamela Amores

Theatre review
The act of storytelling can sometimes be more interesting than the actual content being shared. This is an important feature of theatrical experiences, because original stories are hard to come by, but finding new ways to relay old tales is what keeps us challenged and excited. Melissa Lee Speye’s Decay experiments with timelines and plot structures, using very little words, to create a work that depicts the human condition in a truthful but unusual light. The context involves death and disaster, but the production is not particularly moving. Instead, it connects with our curiosity and intellect for a seventy-minute journey that is more cerebral than visceral. It interacts with us by prompting a series of questions that may be about the characters on stage, but mostly, of the world in general.

Centre stage is Joel Horwood, who takes on the challenge of portraying extreme emotions but without the indulgence of a conventional narrative flow. The actor manufactures tension well, and it is clear to see that he invests heavily into the role’s emotional arc. Horwood is dynamic and focused, but the mysterious nature of the play prevents us from getting too caught up with the protagonist in all his drama. Direction by Rachel Chant gives the production a tautness in pace and atmosphere, and her commitment to an unconventional and sometimes surreal theatrical form is refreshing and quite courageous. Nate Edmondson’s sound design is cleverly imagined, and beautifully realised. Without many spoken lines to occupy our minds with, Edmondson’s contribution takes on greater importance than usual. More than any other element of the show, it is the sound that provides us with the information required to help make sense of the intriguing chaos that unfolds.

Toying with conventions is always risky, and in the case of Decay, it ticks many boxes but leaves us cold. It does not entertain sufficiently, but it satisfies in other ways. With a defined artistic vision, we are impressed by the way it bends rules and negotiates boundaries. There is good work to be admired herein, and like most daring ventures, it will unsettle a little, and at times, it might even disappoint, but we can be certain that what is served is not rehashed rubbish rolled in glitter or painting by numbers, which is very comforting indeed.

Review: Machine (Eclective Productions)

rsz_10245432_622290321179288_1955330957718505088_nVenue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Apr 16 – 20, 2014
Playwright: Melissa Lee Speyer
Director: Rachel Chant
Actors: Lucy Heffernan, David Jackson

Theatre review
Suicide often finds its way into art. It is the most direct contemplation on the value and meaning of life, when questioning “to be or not to be”. Melissa Lee Speyer’s Machine is a pessimistic appraisal of life, and a work that embodies great sensitivity and beauty in its melancholy.

Rachel Scane channels that sense of resignation into her set design.It is basic and cold, but elegantly executed. Together with lighting designer Benjamin Brockman’s work, the space is cleverly transformed into a purgatory of sorts, with a sense of ethereality and impending doom.

Machine‘s story of suicide features Lucy Heffernan as Christine, and David Jackson as her guardian angel. The structure of the play interestingly places focus on the angel who takes us through events in Christine’s life, and her subsequent decision to end it. He also gives the impression from early on, that she is safe in his hands, even in the midst of her depression. As a result, the stakes are never high in the show. The assurance he provides, detaches us from Christine’s predicament, and even though Heffernan’s performance is committed and strong, we do not connect with her suffering. We know that Christine is being watched over, regardless of how things may end. Jackson has conviction in his acting, but the lack of experience and confidence is evident. It is noteworthy however, that Jackson’s smaller subsidiary roles are performed well when he takes the form of Christine’s encounters.

The Angel seems to be the problem. If it is the intention of the artists to create a work that is emotionally involving, we need more access to Christine. Her pain is universal, but we need to feel closer for the drama to work. She has much to divulge, but her Angel shields too much for her, and from us. The girl needs to stand alone.