Review: Idle Lies (Doll Parts)

dollparts1Venue: The Nag’s Head Hotel (Glebe NSW), Mar 23 – 29, 2015
Playwright: Erin Brookhouse, Jason Pizzarello, Adrian Yearwood
Director: Erin Brookhouse
Cast: Romy Bartz, Jack Marsden, Caspar Hardaker, Jaceline Marriott, Isaac Reefman

Theatre review
Erin Brookhouse’s Idle Lies is a multidisciplinary exploration of performance that attempts to redefine the experience of theatre. The venue is an old pub, and the action takes place in several conjoined rooms. A four-piece band is in a corner, providing jazzy versions of familiar pop and rock numbers. After every two or three songs, the cast appears to present a combination of dance and drama that relates to a vague narrative, of which we never really get to understand all too clearly. The show is not about story as much as it is about experimenting with the relationship between artist and audience, and about unpacking the complex meanings of space in life and in the theatre.

Stealing the show is Irene Nicola, the adorable chanteuse who leads the band with confident singing and a sensual touch on her keyboard. The women in the show are flamboyant and glamorous, but their male counterparts are less eloquent in expression. Brookhouse has an interesting vision to share, but not all moments bear enough conviction to persuade us of their artistry. Her use of movement is accomplished, but they are not executed with enough meaning or perhaps psychology in order for us to be more captivated.

Without the comfortable seats of an auditorium and the assurance of a predetermined stage, we are required to move around, using instinct, and common sense, to let the performers carry out their very physical sequences. The process is inconvenient and inelegant, but very kooky and quite charming. The production would look much more effective if a stage was built to those same spacial specifications, leaving us to observe outside of it, but that would miss the point. Before the cast’s each appearance, room lights flash as though forewarning poltergeist activity. The performers walk through us like spirits of the past, unaware of our presence. As we watch them go through their paces, it soon becomes clear that we had swapped places unknowingly, for it is the audience that watches in silence, like the creepy ghosts who hang around in rooms uninvited.