This Is Beautiful (The Public Studio)

The Public StudioVenue: Tower Theatre at Malthouse (Southbank VIC), Jul 19 – Aug 3, 2013
Playwright: Ming-Zhu Hii
Director: Ming-Zhu Hii
Actors: Jing-Xuan Chan, Pier Carthew, Terry Yeboah

Theatre review
Expecting experimental work in any art form to entertain is usually a lost cause, and performance art pieces are rarely crowd-pleasers. This Is Beautiful is composed of three performers spouting endless existentialist questions about the arbitrariness of life’s big meanings. There is no obvious context, and clearly no narrative for which to situate these characters and their constant inquisitions. The small amount of movement and facial expressions they produce seem to be guided by those big questions, giving the impression that the entire 50-minute piece is about one idea.

These questions are not frivolous ones, in fact, one could argue that they are fundamental and relevant to all lives. Only problem is, you would either have already thought about them a thousand times and are quite happy to leave them behind, or they are simply of no interest to you and a night at the theatre would take a lot more than three strangers’ declarations to change your mind.

A big element of this production is the video that plays throughout, which adds dimension to the activity in the space. They provide an interesting abstraction to the repetitive themes, and are visually captivating in their own right, providing variation and colour to the austerity of what is unfolding in the flesh.

It is interesting to note that the three performers are of different ethnicities, and that it takes an experimental work of this nature for this multi-cultural amalgamation to materialise onstage. They make a beautiful picture together, creating a landscape of purity and unison. It also conjures up the notion that this combination of skin colours seems to face constant resistance in mainstream Australian narrative-based storytelling, in theatre or otherwise.