From the fresh and funny to the weird and wonderful, WAAPA’s Performance Making students bring fresh, incisive work at full tilt, writes Claire Trolio.
TILT: Program One, WAAPA 3rd Year Performing Arts – Performance Making
The Blue Room Theatre, 19 September 2023
WAAPA’s Performing Arts course is an incubator for artistic development, churning out fresh talent into the pot of local, independent theatre makers year after year. The course covers performance as well as devising, writing and directing: all of which are drawn on in TILT, the graduating class’s program of original works.
TILT is given stage time at The Blue Room Theatre, where it’s separated into two programs, and where I had the enjoyment of viewing Program One. This cohort of students display their skills through five separate and disparate works. Each is imaginative, contemporary and engaging; precisely what I’d hope for from next-gen theatre makers.
It kicks off with the day the moon fell from the sky, a sci-fi adventure set in a child’s bedroom, in a house that’s being packed up for an impending move. Exploring the effect of domestic turmoil and absent parents on the psyche of children, this Jaimee Whirledge-penned script is sorrowful and intimate, with a timely, eco-anxious undercurrent, all the while harnessing the whimsy of children’s imaginative play.
Whilst it may not be the most innovative work on the bill, the day the moon fell from the sky is charming and compelling. Tender performances from all four performer-devisers (Anja Starkiss, Atira Shack, Katie Walsh and Liam Crevola) make for easy, pleasurable viewing, but it’s the way Shack and Walsh balance humour with sincerity that’s particularly strong for me.
The coming of age theme spills into the fresh and funny, Oh, What a Pretty Painting, directed and written by Phoebe Jade Wood. For the most part, this is a witty monologue about love, romance, desire, obsession and growing up, nimbly performed by Alicia Lori Selkirk. Silent yet omnipresent is Liam Crevola as (the Mona) Lisa, brilliant with poise and subtlety. It’s a winner.
After the interval things get a little eerie. In Hip Hip Hooray maker/performer Mackenzie Brown uses real time video recording and projection, archival audio, mask and movement to call into question the power, control and ethics of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Brown’s movement is fluid and precise, at times contrasting and other times complementing the jarring cacophony of the audio. This abstract piece is striking, challenging and powerful.
Next up is Pseudo, an Australian rural noir that has echoes of Ted Kotcheff’s 1971 film Wake in Fright. Clive Butler (co-writer and performer-deviser Parker Horne) is on a train heading home from FIFO work, when he stops in an outback town and stumbles upon a murder mystery. Eager to be the hero, he’s sucked into local events, but – predictably – things are not what they seem.
Pseudo takes the conventions of the whodunnit and pushes them to the extreme. Horne’s joined by two other performer-devisers, Adam Snyman (also a co-writer) and Eve Miller, who play off one another, delivering humour through physicality and accents as they each perform as multiple characters. Director Gabriella Munro creates a playfulness and self-awareness that gives space for the slapstick antics of Miller and Snyman.
This silliness reverberates into the final piece, How to: Break a Chair. It’s a sublime piece of writing that’s a commentary on consumerism, the cost of living, ageing and the cult of wellness, from the perspectives of a chair and a desk lamp. Sound weird? It is – weird and wonderful.
As the lamp and chair’s furniture friends are packed up around them, we’ve come full circle to another tumultuous house move and another existential crisis. Co-performer-devisers Henry O’Brien and Jaimee Whirledge don’t miss a beat with their fast-paced, sardonic dialogue under Bronte Frances’ tight direction.
How to: Break a Chair is clever theatre and, alongside the four other works in this TILT program, it suggests that the future of these young theatre makers is bright.
Pictured top: Young performance-makers impress in TILT. Pictured is a scene from ‘the day the moon fell from the sky’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography
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