Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Darkness proves immersing

9 February 2018

Fringe World review: Less Light by Lazy Yarns ·
The Round – State Theatre Centre, February 7 ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

It’s one of the delights of attending a live performance: The buzz in the foyer and auditorium, as the crowd anticipates what they are about to see. And the excitement at Less Light‘s opening night was palpable – perhaps amplified by the dynamics of the space.

But paradoxically, the audience was hyped because of what they wouldn’t be able to see. A blindfold was placed on each seat and the program explained the show would take place entirely in the dark.

Even the names of the performers were withheld – the program referring only to “an anonymous collection of Perth artists”, directed by Mitchell Whelan. This established a confessional tone: instant intimacy in a non-judgmental space.

And as details about each storytellers’ cultural background or sexuality slowly emerged, the benefits of this sensory deprivation became clearer. Even as someone who celebrates diversity, it is hard to avoid forming some assumptions based on someone’s appearance.

The memories, experiences, observations and musings shared by each of the three performers range from poignant to banal; earnest to intentionally funny. We hear about the homes they’ve lived in, their friends, their lovers, aspirations and fears, their views on ghosts, on porn, on food…

At the beginning of the Less Light project, each performer was interviewed for two hours – and the script has been crafted from that original 22,000-word transcript. Responses to the same questions have been intercut, in a similar style to a documentary; individual threads (coloured by candour and spontaneity), woven into a whole.

This is enhanced by the evocative live soundscape, performed by WA musician Jacob Diamond.

While I admire Lazy Yarns’ experimentation, I found perhaps half of the material compelling or engaging. (To put it in perspective, the last piece of verbatim theatre to thoroughly hold my interest was based on 80 hour-long interviews.) And while the (relatively young) performers clearly drew on some interesting experiences and perspectives, I suspect their best anecdotes are still to come.

Still, Less Light is a moving, immersive experience. At one point my eyes welled up and I have found myself looking forward to their next project.

Less Light closes 10 February.

Read Seesaw’s Q&A with director Mitchell Whelan.

Photo: Marshall Stay

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Author —
Xan Ashbury

Xan Ashbury is a teacher who spent a decade writing for newspapers and magazines in Australia and the UK. She won the Shorelines Writing for Performance Prize in 2014-17. Her favourite piece of playground equipment is the flying fox.

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