Studio B is really the speakeasy of theatres. It is just a door and a tiny space on the side of a much bigger theatre. As I enter I always feel that someone should hand me a vegemite jar filled with bathtub gin. Alas, this hasn’t happened yet. YET. With SUDS teaming up with Periscope Productions out of Melbourne, I was hoping that this might be the night I get my bootlegged cocktail. Tonight, however, they concentrated their experimental notions into their performance and I gazed onto their stark theatre-in-the-round styled set in complete sobriety.
I am not always fond of central staging as I don’t find backs of heads give moving performances. However I shouldn’t have been too concerned. Clemence Williams and Benjamin Sheen’s direction was very clever. They used the stage wisely and often had multiple actors delivering the same lines to opposite sides of the audience simultaneously, something that an experimental piece like Martin Crimp’s ‘Attempts on her Life’ will allow. I am impressed with the way that Williams and Sheen managed to take a play with zero narrative and turn it into something that was almost understandable.
For those of you who haven’t seen Crimp’s so called “characterless” piece, I’ll do my best to break it down for you. The title proposes it’s about someone or something attempting to take a woman’s life. While the play does suggest that an absent character, Anne, might be the victim of the murder and other violence, the “attempts” seem more like efforts to define or categorise this missing character.
Without a narrative it’s just a collection of ideas of Anne. Like whispers in a tornado, the audience slowly start to piece together what and who Anne is, only to have their ideas snatched away as the play contradicts itself over and over again. Eventually, I relented trying to make sense of who Anne was and accept the play for the convoluted allegory that it was.
Not that I was bored. The ensemble cast were captivating and equally weighted. Brittany Lewis’ voice was sensational during the musical montage. To demonstrate how we can misconstrue meaning, the cast sat in the audience answering phone calls about Anne. As the symphony of ringtones reached a crescendo, it was as magical as it was alarming. I could see the audience across the stage, they seemed completely seduced by the piece.
The lighting designers Chenier Moore and Chrys Chandra were posed with the unenviable task of lighting a central stage without a lighting rig. When I first sat down the spot light was blinding, during the performance however my eyes were light-free. The lighting’s choreography to the music was inspired and gave the piece the intensity that it needed.
SUDS and Periscope Productions have meshed perfectly to create a sleek piece of experimental theatre. I hope to see more of this collaboration again.