Thursday, 28 November 1996

Mind's Eye, Nov 28, 2017

by Handspan & Back to Back
Lonsdale St Power Station until Dec 7, 1996
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around Nov 28, 1996

Theatrical collaborations can be a breeding ground for new and wonderful ideas in the land of the unpredictable or they may breed only conflict. Back to Back meeting Handspan Theatre is a successful example of the former.

Mind's Eye is weird in every sense of the word.  It is riddled with rich and disturbing Jungian imagery. One character's 'female parts' argue with her and represent her uncontrollable sexuality. It mews like a kitten and is attacked by a mangy mongrel which is in turn thrown ruthlessly into a furnace by the witch.

The character is played by Sonia Teuben, an experienced actor from Back to Back, a company for intellectually disabled actors.  Her provocative 'pussy' raises awareness about social repression of sexuality in disabled people.

The plot of Mind's Eye is simple. It is a fairy tale about a bored witch-mermaid who sends several messages in bottles inviting strangers to her birthday party on her island home.  Her invitation reads peremptorily, "Bring a present" and she is none too gracious if she does not like the gift. In fact, put a foot wrong and you're likely to be chained, burned or bewitched.

The company has a charming and disarming style. Mark Deans once again performs his inimitable natural clown and Rita Halabarec as the witch is both menacing and cute. Tom Lycos accompanies Back to back actors with a terrific physical presence naive clown.

Puppeteers (John Rogers, Liss Gabb, Megan Cameron) are, as is often the case in Handspan's black theatre, visible and active as characters who not only manipulate the puppets but who interact with them and with the actors. The mechanics of the theatrical form: lighting, musicians, movable sets, the creatures which droop before life is breathed into them, are all revealed in an almost Brechtian way. The process is demystified without destroying the magic of visual theatre.

Design by Cliff Dolliver includes a couple of mad cartoon-like critters: a huge " stupid jungle animal" and an animated drawing which scuttle about then go to sea together. ˆThe haunting live music is played by Helen Mountford and Hope Csutoros with recorded music by My Friend the Chocolate Cake. It provides an emotional layer for the piece.

There are messy bits, slow sections and some incomprehensible images but the whole is so entertaining it doesn't matter a jot. The crowd cheered and stamped at the curtain call – and Mark Deans did his cartwheels to steal the limelight.

Wednesday, 27 November 1996

Tristan and Yseult, Nov 27, 1996

Tristan & Yseult by Peter Jetnikoff & Stephen Joyce
 La Mama at Lonsdale St Power Station until Dec 12, 1996

In the end, Tristan and Yseult die the death they should have died in the beginning: suicide for lost love. Truth and passion don't rule the world but power, history and comfort.

Yes, comfort. People choose the comfortable worn armchair. Even Yseult returns to her royal husband and abode after three years desperate exile and scrounging in the forest with her lover. Living hand to mouth with a loved one is not much fun as anyone on the dole can vouch.

This non-Wagnerian Tristan & Yseult, written by Peter Jetnikoff & Stephen Joyce is performed at the Lonsdale St Power Station. It is produced by La Mama which now has tentacles reaching right out into every available small theatre venue.

The disused warehouse contrasts the concrete industrial location with the delightfully classical style of the text. The poetic almost Elizabethan form of the dialogue and narration is coupled with stylised action and compelling performances by the entire ensemble.

The audience, after initially standing around uncomfortably, is seated around a manually revolving "Wooden 'O' " to witness the unfolding of the poignant tale of passion, besmirched honour and betrayal. One never tires of these such human frailties. The two are star-crossed, like Romeo and Juliet, coming from warring kingdoms of Cornwall and Ireland. As he escorts Yseult to marry King of Cornwall and end the conflict, Tristan (Luke Elliot) falls in love with his Queen-to-be (Vanessa O'Neill) and here begins their tale of doom and destiny.

The poetic, almost Elizabethan, form of the dialogue and narration is coupled with stylised action and compelling performances by the entire ensemble. There is a warmth and richness in the storytelling and a tautness in Bruce Naylor's direction which holds us for three hours. The recipe of tragedy with a tincture of irony which is inherent in the text, is heightened by Drew Tingwell's dwarf-narrator and Bruce Kerr's King. Alex Pinder provides the weight of experience and rationality in his Governal.

Luke Elliot's complex and driven Tristan is layered with the naivete and lust of youth and Vanessa O'Neill portrayal of Yseult is intelligent and detailed. The two create exciting and credible lovers. The whole piece is coloured and supported by subtle lighting and live music by Nick Papas and Caroline Lee.

The very opening fifteen minutes were slow with narration over dumb show but the piece flies for the remaining hours. This is really gripping myth-telling See it!.ˆ