15 September 2014

Review: A lie of the mind

A lie of the mind
5 September 2014
The Grange pop up theatre
to 13 September

With an ambitious and successful Pozible fundraising campaign, an empty amazing space in the CBD and the determination to move a class exercise to a professional production, A lie of the mind opens The Grange, a pop-up theatre and bar.

Firstly, who knew that there was a huge empty warehouse in the city of Melbourne! Hidden near Victoria and La Trobe streets, it shows its age but holds a bar and theatre that love the space and welcome its signs of disintegration.

The bar is warm with heaters, spicy hot drinks and welcoming staff. There are covered hay bales to sit on, tables for lengthy conversations and buttery popcorn for snacks. It's great.

The performance space in the opposite corner of the huge room is, which is sadly cold (but rugs provided) and has bum-numbing chairs. I'd love to see the spaces become one. It felt odd to have a traditional(ish) theatre space tucked in the corner of a room that was begging to be used and explored. (And multiple performance space would have solved some awkward scene changes.)

American Sam Shepard's play A lie of the mind was first seen off-Broadway in 1985 with a cast that included Harvey Keitel and Aidan Quinn. Set in the USA mid-west in the early 1980s, it's the story of two very broken families connected through a marriage that ends at the play's beginning when the husband bashes his wife to the point that he thinks she's dead. With a realism voice that slips into violent poetry and brushes the edges of magic realism, it's a powerful look at Shepherd's world and the American culture that will protect its own flag and the idea of America before looking at itself.

It's a wonderful play, but I don't know what this production is saying about us and now and how the world on the stage is reflecting on the people who come to share in it. There's a disconnect between production and space and between performers and audience, making it a story about "them" rather than a story about "us".

While some of the cast grasp the tone of the script better than others, every performance (Alex Duncan, Zack Anthony Curran, Lauren-Anne Kempster, Shayne Francis, Alice Cavanagh, Ashley McKenzie, Peter Hardy and Kaarin Fairfax) is heartfelt and excellent. Still there's a showcase feeling of actors trying so hard to give their best performance that the overall story also feels disconnected from the people telling it and there are some empty relationship spaces between the characters. All are actors who don't have to try to be astonishing and are never let down by their their characters.

Quibbles aside, these are creators and artists who want to make theatre and perform great plays, so they raised the money to create a wonderful space and perform a great play – and I'll be first in line for their for their next show.

A lie of the mind is on all next week and to make theatre accessible, Tuesday and Wednesday nights are "pay what you can" nights (hey, every other theatre and company in town, please give this a try) and if you look at their Facebook page, there might be some more rush ticket offers.

PS. If you want to go in spoiler-free, don't read the synopsis on the website.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

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