Tilting away from predictable themes

16 September 2020

David Zampatti is happy to discover that this year’s student-devised works from WAAPA’s Performance Making students have not been infected with anything of a viral nature.

‘TILT 2020′, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts’ 3rd Year Performance Making students ·
Blue Room Theatre, 4 and 11 September, 2020 ·

“TILT” is the WAAPA Bachelor of Performance Arts (BPA) course’s annual series of short works by its graduating class, presented at the Blue Room Theatre.

Apart from the sheer pleasure of watching the latest batch of BPA young talent in action, I’m always curious to know what’s on their mind, because you’d expect those themes and techniques are likely to infect the theatre outside the cloisters in time to come.

Oh, did I say infect? Surely, THAT infection would dominate this year’s “TILT”, especially in the strictly COVID-safe environment of the Blue Room, with only 14 audience members spread thinly around its performance spaces and (horror of horrors) Perth’s best bar shuttered as we were hustled through the foyer past it.

Happily, though, the virus didn’t dominate the twelve performances over the two nights of “TILT”, although a recurring undercurrent of Eliotian self-examination and the search for identity – unsurprising in our shared present circumstance – was particularly notable, and, on two occasions, explicit. We’ll get to them.

Here are this year’s TILTS:

This Space Intentionally Left Blank
Devised and performed by Claire Appleby, Riley Jackson and Elouise Martin

From its natty title to its rolling credits (the names of everyone in the audience) this rumination on awareness was full of crafty self-indulgences and insider humour (those of us who’ve endured psychodrama classes as students were shifting uncomfortably in our seats). It wasn’t especially well glued together, and could have used some trimming, but not a bad vehicle for three energetic and talented performers.

Dishonourable Women
Written, performed and devised by Kate McLean
Performed and devised by Pia Husbands
Directed and dramaturged by Courtney Cavallaro

Anyone lucky enough to see Tyler Jacob Jones’s F#@k Decaf or Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs’ Fag Stag in one of their hit Perth seasons over the last eight years will be instantly at home in Dishonourable Women. And that’s a very good thing.

Bouncing off a fabulous entry point, “Rose asked me to be her maid of honour – I don’t know what to say”, McLean’s dialogue snap, crackle and pops its way through the white lies and dark truths we tell our friends. McLean and her fellow deviser Husbands are Kath-y and Kim-ish from go to whoa, and Cavallaro directs with a sure hand throughout.

Where are You From?
Written and performed by Marlanie Haerewa
Directed by Henry Boles
Dramaturged by Grace Chow

Haerewa’s loose-form slam poetry propels the unflinching story of her search for identity through her childhood in Derby, the indignities of boarding school and her growing understanding: “The country is my treasure”.

Ask Again Tomorrow
Written by Lily Baitup
Devised and performed by Breanna Boyd, Courteney Cooper and Mariah Gonzalez
Directed by Scarlet Davis

Perhaps the most direct response to our present exigencies, Ask Again Tomorrow’s mantras, “Detox. Detach”, “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” play out in tightly scripted and choreographed tableaux by Boyd, Cooper and Gonzalez.

It’s measured and manic in turn, punchy though sometimes lacking in clarity.

Written, performed and devised by Lily Baitup
Directed and devised by Emily Star

This is a small tour de force for Lily Baitup, who dominates the stage in a story that reads like mythology about a girl and her (unseen) father. Dense, erudite and shot through with images of flight and capture, it left unanswered questions that, perhaps, are too difficult to ask.

‘The Moments Inbetween’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

The Moments Inbetween
Performed and devised by Claire Appleby, Scarlet Davis and Mollie Nelson-Williams
Directed by Samuel Bruce

The most highly developed of all this year’s “TILT” narratives, and the program’s most complex, a creation of choreography and percussive sound that seems to take you inside the workings of a mad clock, perhaps the one – I kept thinking – that measured out Prufrock’s life in the coffee spoons that play an important part in the action of the piece.

Appleby, Davis and Nelson-Williams take to the physical challenges with high energy and great skill to create an exciting and memorable work.

It’s Turtles All the Way Down
Performed and devised by Breanna Boyd, Mariah Gonzalez, Tiernan Rennie (dramaturgy) and Maya Soni

A game of pass the parcel with mythic and global implications, it’s a charming, bright exercise, but nothing more. Still, it’s certainly a lively vehicle for some engaging physical performances, the highlight a pretty and skillful dance with feathers at the close.

The Toast
Written by Courteney Cooper
Performed and devised by Couteney Cooper and Riley Jackson
Directed by Alexandra Wilde

A small, diffident love affair with a tango and a little slapstick, played with well-modulated restraint by Cooper and Jackson. While it didn’t have quite the bite of Dishonourable Women, it did have a heart-melting puppet dog, which, of course, elevates it above any criticism.

Hell on Earth
Written and directed by Grace Chow
Performed and devised by Courtney Cavallaro, Katy McLean and Tiernan Rennie

The most thoroughly played out story in this year’s “TILT”, with something of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy about it; a girl meets two old deros in a laundromat who turn out to be God, then goes looking for them at the behest of the archangel Gabriel, who’s lost them. Oh, and there’s some lines from T.S. Eliot.

This is as good a time as any to sympathise with this year’s TILTers, who had to bang their pieces together in a few weeks rather than semesters. Hell on Earth probably suffered as much as any for the resultant lack of marinating; I’d be very keen to try it again once it has more time in the pot.

Written, performed and devised by Emily Star and Alexandra Wilde

Tidal is a big show in a small package; often very lovely, always very frank, it explores the rites of passage of a teenage girl through images of water, light and blood; its allusions are to life, and death.

Stay and Wilde float through its landscape of little jars, sometimes ethereal, sometimes very real.

Grace Chow in ‘The Noodle Shop on the Corner of Fifth Street’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

The Noodle Shop on the Corner of Fifth Street
Written and performed by Grace Chow

Grace Chow’s feline horror story is a parable of insatiable appetites and is the most fully realised of all this year’s “TILT” pieces. Chow’s description of the noodle shop, its red flags, hanging roasted ducks and fish waiting their turn in their tanks has an Edgar Allen Poe-like menace; her physical work accentuates the threat and the power of her story.

How to Ignore a Formal Apology
Performed and devised by Pia Husbands, David Stewart and Mollie Nelson-Williams

Want to end with a good old-fashioned piece of agitprop? Husbands, Stewart and Nelson-Williams rise to the challenge with a neat dissection of the art of apologising and the craft of ignoring it.

Of course the great theatre of the apology ignored is politics, and Stewart’s sound design takes us to some of the most notorious, leading, inevitably, to Kevin Rudd in 2008 and the example now known simply as The Apology.

Pictured top is ‘It’s Turtles All the Way Down’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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