Transit Tales | Review by Georgia McKenzie. Monday 17 May, at West End Ferry Terminal. Presented by Pigasus Productions.
What do all of these things have in common? A first date, people dressed as pirates, an unlikely hero, a shark, a proposal, and a polar bear bus driver. Apparently, according to the audience of Transit Tales, these are all things that have appeared on Brisbane public transport.
Transit Tales is the debut performance piece of Pigasus Productions and is made up of a collection of improvised skits. Performed at West End CityCat Terminal, the scenes are inspired by audience members’ supposed lived experiences on Brisbane’s public transport system. Only 20-minutes long, the short piece transports actors and audience members into a selection of absurd and funny situations. Each scene left the young families that surrounded me in fits of giggles.
When discussing the performance with my viewing companion, they commented that the outside interruptions—buses, people talking, dogs, cars etc.—were annoying disturbances to the performance. However, I felt the complete opposite, identifying how these interruptions are an important structural element to the dramaturgy of the piece. Cathy Turner, a leading theatre academic, talks about the porous nature of outdoor site-specific theatre, stating that it is open to being interrupted and occupied by the unexpected. This openness to the unanticipated is one of the things that makes site-specific performance so special.
What struck me most in Transit Tales was just how open the dramaturgy of improvised theatre needs to be. As a form that is already prone to interventions from actors, staging outdoors requires a high level of skill to cleverly weave the natural interruptions of the space into the meaning of the piece. An example of this from Transit Tales was when a dog ran into the performance space. Instead of ignoring it and trying to move on from this moment, which was certainly a distraction for the audience, the actress performing a young girl started following the dog shouting “puppy!” This was perfect for the character she was playing, which happened to be an easily distracted young girl, as it is exactly how a young girl might respond in this situation.
Although I don’t typically enjoy improvised theatre, I am always impressed with the level of intense emotions and vulnerability presented on stage by actors in this genre. I feel at times that this vulnerability can be lost in the direction of traditional theatre making because it is more rigid and inflexible in form. Improvised performances, such as Transit Tales, are a raw display of impulsive decisions in a form that breaks away from the traditional structures of theatre. What remains are endless possibilities, where even the actors don’t know how it may end.
Transit Tales is a fun, energetic, short, and easy to digest piece of theatre. It would be perfectly suited to a young family looking for an evening out.