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Artrage Festival

Cycles, overlaps, intersections

Thea Costantino

Thea Costantino is a Perth-based artist and writer.

Igor Sas, Eamon Flack, Renee MacIntosh & Adrianne Daff 
Igor Sas, Eamon Flack, Renee MacIntosh & Adrianne Daff

photo Nick Higgins
In The Gathering, a play about those invisible forces in relationships that draw us together and drive us apart, the action is fast-paced and disjunctive, with multiple projection screens adding elements of the fantastic to an otherwise minimal set. Pantomime-style silhouettes, animated shadow puppets, closed circuit camera, medical imagery and an underwater-netherworld environment contribute to the sense of estrangement in the characters.

Initially all we see is a sparse interior—a laundry sink, grimy wallpaper, a door. This impression of grey domesticity is shattered by the sudden appearance of a shirtless glam rocker who belts out a few verses before disappearing through the door through which he entered. A domestic drama ensues. Mora has murdered her husband. She flees to a coastal town in rural Australia with her young daughter Anna. They find an amiable butcher, Frank, who offers them refuge for a few days, and they end up staying for good. Years later, Anna is in Europe in search of clues to the identity of her dead father. It is here that she meets the artist Emil.

The narrative flickers back and forth between Anna and the family she’s left behind, held together by the intrusion of details from each others’ lives—fragments of a broken cup, a painting, a muffled telephone line, a vague memory of the murdered man. Anna finds that she is unwittingly re-enacting her mother’s youth. Themes of migration, exile and being orphaned are explored through occasionally intertextual and often moving dialogue, set against a cinematic musical score by Ash Gibson Greig.

The cast works well together, with some standout performances. Igor Sas is excellent in a number of roles—as Frank, he is the lonely attendant of Mora’s conjugal coolness, but in Eastern Germany he is a drunken Slavic railway worker who moonlights as a nude model, with obvious concern for how Emil represents his smaller appendage. He also plays a mad old painter who has abandoned art in favour of film, which he calls “the new canvas”—what was the moon landing if not artifice, he asks. Co-writer Eamon Flack plays Emil, a fastidious fish out of water, with a similar combination of satire and sensitivity.

Director/co-writer Matthew Lutton is a formidable young talent at 22—before graduating from WAAPA he had already created his own theatre company, ThinIce Productions, and The Gathering is set to tour. Developed in collaboration with the company, this is an ambitious play with real potential and some excellent moments, but which perhaps tries to do a bit too much, at the cost of cohesiveness. The second half risks being a different play altogether, with some of the important narrative trajectories of the first half (Mora’s murder of Anna’s father and her subsequent obsession with the demise of historical murderers) apparently abandoned. However, for an original play by such a young director, this outing indicates a significant talent that will be refined in later years.

Artrage Festival 2005 & PICA, The Gathering, ThinIce Productions, writers Eamon Flack, Matthew Lutton in collaboration with the company; director Matthew Lutton, performers Adrianne Daff, Eamon Flack, Renee MacIntosh, Igor Sas, designer Bryan Woltjen, projections Sohan Ariel Hayes, sound Kingsely Reeve, composition Ash Gibson Greig, production manager and lighting Nick Higgins; PICA, Oct 22-Nov 12

Thea Costantino is a Perth-based artist and writer.

RealTime issue #70 Dec-Jan 2005 pg. 15

© Thea Costantino; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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