Within a Fleeting Moment Review by Timothy McGowan

A beautifully heartfelt achievement in immersive theatre, this lovingly crafted and deeply personal journey promises to be one of the most interesting productions this year.

A beautifully heartfelt achievement in immersive theatre, this lovingly crafted and deeply personal journey promises to be one of the most interesting productions this year.

If it were to be plotted out, Within a Fleeting Moment lives between two core moments. The opening introduces the audience to the concept, and the final moments throw into question everything that immersive theatre takes for granted. And, as their name would suggest, Interim Theatre have taken the gap between those two moments, and turned it into an eminently engaging piece of drama that is never the same experience twice.

Within a Fleeting Moment is as much an installation as it is an immersive theatre piece. The QA Hotel’s Farrier Bar has been transformed into the home of a long lived and eccentric woman named Edith, whose life is at the heart of the experience. It’s clear that the creative team fashioned the space to come across as a character of its own, and most of the underlying narrative can be found in physical objects. There are scatterings of Edith’s remnants, the proof of her existence, seen in small trinkets and books, letters from long ago and hundreds of meticulously selected photographs.

To say more would take away from the deliberate demand to experience the performance without unnecessary preamble. Interim have decided to obfuscate expectation, and in doing so has created a production that is always a pleasant surprise. Co-creators Riley Camejo, Elizabeth Hunt, and Alex Macdonald, alongside Hannah Flannery as stage manager, have succeeded in moulding an experience that is entirely unique, even within its own subgenre.

Within a Fleeting Moment is guided by a single performer, and Tahlia Downs is stunning as Edith’s granddaughter. She commands the space with her sincere disposition, and is a joy to interact with. An impressive emotional range lends important substance to the character, and her ability to move from moment to moment is elegant in its seamlessness. Given the subject matter, Downs wrestles with the encroaching melodrama, but there was never a time that it felt out of place. The production is elevated to near perfection with her at the helm.

There’s a sense of care and attention to the overall design of the piece. The intimate space allows for contemplation through small dialogues and environmental storytelling. And throughout it all is a sense of playfulness. A projector that must be switched on. A stack of slides. A box of recipes. Photographs hidden in hardcovers. The technical elements are comforting in their frankness. Most of the effects presented are diegetic, and often interactive. Being able to switch on small lightbulbs and clumps of fairy lights is endearing, and there are several inspiring uses of hidden sound design that must be uncovered. This isn’t a passive experience. It thrives when an audience engages openly and honestly with it. Very rarely does theatre so confidently demand your attention.

With this, much of the work is unscripted, as it’s the audience’s attention that directs the action. The freedom to explore is entirely refreshing, and Interim have built an compelling mystery directly into every tiny detail. The narrative is told through a collection of enigmatic puzzle pieces, paired against Downs’ introspection. The contrasting of the two allows for an almost emergent narrative within the framing of Edith’s history. Every audience will have a slightly different understanding of events. And a lingering uncertainty is sure to keep them thinking long after the performance is over.

Perhaps the greatest shame is that much of the accoutrement littering the space comes across mostly as filler, compared to the works specifically created for the narrative. While the experience does not demand, and perhaps even thrives in the absence of, clear answers, more chances for the inquisitive and perceptive observer to engage with the story would not have been out of place.

Importantly, Interim have demonstrated a meaningful understanding of the human condition, frequently and successfully drawing on the universal experiences the audience brings to the narrative. Sombreness and melancholy, warmth and comfort, Within a Fleeting Moment delights in the small moments it can share. It is an exceedingly magical experience that says much about love and family, remembrance and empathy, and ought to be commended for its grounding in the properly personal, and forever touching. The future of this piece, and indeed this company, is brighter than ever.

The reviewer attended the 10th May 6pm performance of Within a Fleeting Moment at the QA Hotel, James Street.

Read more coverage and cast interviews at timothymcgowan.com