“There is no respite from horror.” – Jenny Holzer.
The above quote (and yes, I am probably going to start all of these with a quote) is not in fact, from the show at all, but merely one that kept running through my head whilst I was watching and then afterwards. Not because I thought the performance was in any way horrific, of course, but there was certainly a lack of respite. The fifteen minute long intermission that broke up the two hour stage traffic was not quite long enough to catch your breath. The whirlwind of drama was symbolic in of itself in that way – from the tragedy of human suffering, A Dream Play tells us, there is no relief.
A Dream Play tells the story of the goddess Agnes who comes down to earth to find out why humanity is so discontent. Through her adventures she meets many eccentric characters and experiences human suffering firsthand. For a show with so many eclectic characters, it takes a strong cast to bring it to life and I commend the cast and crew of Able Productions for the many brave choices they made in terms of characterisation and staging. Being only a little bit familiar with the text I did find it at times hard to follow (particularly in terms of who was who – I did not understand the KISS makeup at all) but I was impressed by the physical stamina of all of the actors.
In terms of staging I think it would have been interesting to see how the performance would have fared in their original location (The West End Uniting Church) but thought that the space was interesting nonetheless. The West End Markets Warehouse provided, essentially, a black box but the set was stunning – just a simple double bed with ghosts of sheets hanging on a surrounding washing line. With colourful fairy lights and the torches we were handed out (again, that was not really explained) we were invited to step into the dream.
As I said, there was an intensity to the performance which was brought out not only by the dense text and acting choices but also physical choices as well. In addition to the often comedic sexual undertones there was a grabbing and manhandling physicality that grew towards the end almost draining to watch. It was rough and aggressive the way the characters would pull each other around the stage. The moments of peace were few and far in between and there was seemingly no tenderness to balance out the aggression. There is no respite from horror. This was naturally challenging as an audience member, but a challenge that I felt in the end was worth it. Overall, Able Productions produced an interesting interpretation of what is one of the most influential pieces of modern theatre. “Sometimes bleak, sometimes naughty, sometimes frightening,” their facebook page asserts – and that sounds just about right.
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 22nd.
About the author
Heidi Harrison is a young artist with a passion for new theatre. Currently undertaking a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drama) with a minor in creative writing, she has a particular interest in both the written word and movement. Otherwise, she loves cats and is generally too lazy to turn the record over.