30 October 2006

Bash

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2006
Bash
5Kinds Theatre
11 October 2006
LaVish Modern Cuisine

Neil LaBute’s Bash is a well-known and brilliant piece of contemporary writing. The characters and their stories are complex and compelling. 5KindsTheatre demonstrate a deep understanding and passion for the text, but don’t succeed in sharing this understanding with their audience.

Bash is four monologues; the last two presented concurrently as different versions of the same night. All are about unexpected and violent murder. This production relied far too heavily on the shock value of the text, rather than letting the audience understand and connect to the characters.

Bash is written to be confessed directly to the audience. Confession fails without an intimate connection with your “confessee”. The design of the space does not help the actors in creating an intimate connection. We were sitting in on two sides of the stage, some on the floor, some on chairs and in full view of each other. It was not only difficult for the audience to focus on the stage, but even more difficult for the actors to focus on the audience. I can see how it was designed to be intimate, but, ironically, it would be more powerful with a traditional stage set up.

Grant Cartwright (Iphegenia in Orem) refused to make eye contact with any member of the audience. Without doubt this is a difficult piece to perform, but it is an empty performance if it is told to various spots on the wall. Grant’s delivery is strong, but he hit an intense level almost immediately, giving his character nowhere to go emotionally. Joshua Hewitt (A Gaggle of Saints) seemed to learn from Grant’s performance and made constant eye contact with one side of the audience. This made for a much more engaging character, but didn’t allow us to focus on the other character in the scene and most of the audience missed out on his connection. Ella Watson-Russell struck the best balance in Medea Redux and to her side of the audience in A Gaggle of Saints.

I can’t help but compare this production to another Fringe show - Debris. Both are violent contemporary texts based on monologue - one is presented by recent NIDA graduates and one by recent VCA graduates. Debris is superb theatre, Bash would benefit from more time at drama school.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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