22 October 2008

That Night Follows Day

MIAF 2008
That Night Follows Day
Tim Etchells
and Victoria and Melbourne International Arts Festival

22 October 2008
Merlyn Theatre, CUB Malthouse


It’s comforting to know that all children add Earth, the Solar System and the Universe to addresses, and that little girls always tuck their skirts into their pants when they hand upside down. It is less comforting to see how much children are confused by, resent and are angry with adults.

That Night Follows Day is devised, written and directed by Tim Etchells, who directed Bloody Mess (Forced Entertainment) at MIAF 2005. His cast of 16 children and young people from Belgium speak as a chorus directly to the lit audience.

The script is a complex and remarkably structured list of what “you” (adults) do for and tell children and what “we” (children) promise to do. As adults we sing to children; we tell them about The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Spice Girls; we tell them not to drink bleach; and explain the plots of movies to them. In return, they promise to dress nicely, be as good as gold and not say asshole or motherfucker. It’s not hard to recognise the children in our own lives or the children we once were.

As an adult, it can be confronting to see and hear what children think of us. The loving recognition of calling kids “Pumpkin” delicately turns as their anger at forever being told “no” is exposed and the lies and tricks adults think they get away with are presented back to us.

This world clearly differentiates between the “us” of adult and the “them” of children. This was strange as 9-year-old and a 15-year-old expressed the same beliefs. The gap between these age groups is so much greater than a 15-year-old and a 20-year-old “adult”. The unasked question is when do these children and young people join our adult world, or when did we leave theirs?

The exceptional young cast contributed to the script, but are still very clearly directed and controlled by Etchells. There is no room for mistake or interpretation, even in the chaotic playground scene where the children do all the things adults don’t want them to do.

With such a strong adult directorial voice coming though the work, there is some doubt to the authenticity of the opinions being expressed, but not enough to lessen its impact.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com

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