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An Exact Point In Time

When I was younger, mum used to tell me ‘life isn’t one big party – most of life is actually pretty shit’. Like most things mum said, I actively rebelled against this. My first year out of high school was spent oscillating between two states: drunk and hungover. I was determined to make life one big party, and I’m sure I had fun, but I barely remember any of it.

When I asked mum if she wanted to come watch An Exact Point In Time with me, I thought it’d be a nice night at the theatre. I had no idea I was signing up for an hour long elaboration of mum’s favourite lesson – the longest ‘I told you so’ to date.

An Exact Point in Time was written by Claire Christian in collaboration with the Queensland Conservatorium acting class of 2020. Originally performed by 12 actors, this rendition had a cast of four (all of whom were in the original cast). Cast members Ally Hickey and Sarah McNally also produced this work under their new theatre company Apt.13 Productions.

This work was comprised of scenes spanning from 1946 – 2021. It kicked off with a cracking monologue delivered by Oscar Thelander about his character’s first grocery shop living out of home. Grocery shopping is a mundane activity, one that doesn’t usually captivate an audience. But this description of a grocery shop did because it distilled the freedom and excitement that one experiences on their first grocery shop when mum and dad aren’t there to gatekeep what goes in the trolley. This set up the focus of the piece; the micro-moments that make up life.

Other scenes saw two mates drinking beer, chatting about how one’s conscription to Vietnam War means they’ll miss their best mate’s wedding. Another was an ode to modern life, where two friends made small talk about the rigidness of Marie Kondo (instead of addressing why they haven’t kissed each other sober).

This work took place in a functioning art and wellness studio. Little effort went into transforming this space into a ‘theatre’ – there were paint brushes and pallets splayed over the tables in front of our chairs – adding to that ‘Anywhere’ feel.

I’ve never seen a theatre show with the house lights on for the duration of the performance. I wondered if this was a conscious decision. The lack of distinction between life and theatre (usually indicated by the downing of house lights) was interesting. It helped cultivate a sense that life is happening right now, in all of its harsh realities.

The overall message rang lound and clear: life lies in the micro-moments, not the massive, dramatic ones. I am usually reluctant to make big calls about ‘getting the message’, but this piece didn’t leave room for interpretation, with the ending being heavily didactic. I’m generally not a fan of a neatly packaged meaning, and this piece was no exception. But when everyone started clapping, I turned around to ask mum what she thought and she had tears in her eyes and a soft, sincere smile of agreement. ‘They’re so right. Life is pretty shit, but it’s the small moments that make it count’ she said. The lady next to her was crying.

After the show, mum took me back to her house and treated me to a home cooked meal. Normally once we’ve finished eating, I head back to my house, but this time I lingered, relishing in the conversation with my precious mum. That night with mum was one of the nicest nights I’d had all year. I guess this piece’s meaning hit harder than I thought.