16
May
12

The Alleyway Project

 

The Alleyway Project

The Alleyway Project

Cradle Productions & The Alleyway Collective

Winn Lane

14th -15th May 2012

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

FULL. ON. SHOW.

Theatre that pushes boundaries…

“Are you sure this is it?” asked my concerned fiancé, dropping me off in front of a grimy looking laneway in the bowels of the Valley…”

“Yep!” I grinned as I eyed a chalkboard sign crudely pointing down Winn Lane, where a mishmash of people wandered wide-eyed into the darkness…

Kissing him goodbye, I joined those heading to see The Alleyway Project, a new work presented by Cradle Productions & The Alleyway Collective and directed by Kat Henry for the Anywhere Theatre Festival 2012. With stories of love, loss and chaos from Brisbane playwrights Dan Evans, Eloise Maree, Dan Maloney and Maxine Mellor, The Alleyway Project was set to breathe new life into little ol’ Winn Lane; turning it into an eclectic performance space full of possibility.

Upon arrival I was welcomed into the atmospheric little space by costumed alley-cats encouraging me to help myself to the hanging casks of goon suspended from the rafters and pull up a milk crate and cushion for my comfort. Half a cup of Sav Blanc and a few ‘cat-mask-wearing’ happy-snaps later, a commotion started up behind me and the show began.

Entering from the street came a disheveled barefoot reveler; frantic and slightly unhinged, he ambled through the audience befriending some and using the bemused expression of others to play out his hysteria. Searching for his missing loafers and recounting a hectic tale of his boy’s night out we soon learnt that despite his plucky exterior, something was fatally amiss. Stripping down to reveal a bloodstained shirt and gradually unraveling to a sobbing heap before us, the audience was left silent and captivated by the spectacle.

The intimacy of an actor in the same space as their audience is often as problematic as it is effective. Despite a few visual restrictions, in this case, it is used to great effect. The familiarity created between audience and actor fostered much needed empathy for the highly charged emotional journey to follow and although extreme, made it more easily digestible through an authentic and honest performance by the actor.

The next performer made a quiet yet strong entrance. With a wonderful feel for language, this tale of unrequited love and gritty lust was both beautiful and grotesque. I enjoyed the audience connection created particularly by the first actor, whose settled performance also showed respect for the rhythm and shape of words as a vehicle for sincerity. I felt this was not executed as well by the object of his affections, Ren, who whilst presenting a wonderfully courageous performance, was outweighed in this respect by her counterpart.  That being said, she brought a wonderful physicality to the role and showed a commitment to character that made for a believable and truthful performance. It was in this scene however, that visually much was lost, as a rather large number of audience members were unable to see the focused performance space and were therefore disconnected from the story.

As the lights went down on this story of young love, we were ushered onto the staircase and told to pack in tight. Like kids at a school assembly, we perched shoulder to shoulder, as fittingly, a chattering pack of schoolgirls came into view. With bra straps showing and all the bravado of youth, this scene held nothing from the imagination as vulgarity spewed from their pink-chapsticked lips in the form of bullying, racism, sexual escapades and even abuse. While this scene had quite a few lighter moments in its characterisation, in reflection it was probably the most affecting.  There was a gravity that was not overlooked as it hinted at abuse and the ability of pop culture to become a tool for its distribution. All three actors gave strong performances that made no apologies for the sensitivity of the subject matter. I particularly enjoyed the Queen Bee and her interpretation of what was a challenging role. Although at times I found the interpretation a little one-dimensional, her commitment to character and onstage energy was captivating to watch. All in all, the three embodied these overtly sexual school-aged characters in a way that left me stunned and wondering if this was a true representation of the sexualisation of high schools today?

The final part of our Alleyway journey came in the form of a scene that I fear may be more common than not in the Valley on a Saturday night. Emerging from the shadows a vomit-soaked couple, interrupted in their moment of passion schlepped slowly into the space. What followed was an amusing conversation about ‘hooking up’, labels, drugs, promises and eczema, providing light-hearted relief to what had been a heavy journey so far. The actors in this scene had a great chemistry that made their interchanges hilariously raw and dreadfully believable. Embodying the stereotypes to a tee, they navigated their way through chunks of vomit and cheesy pickup lines to a place where common ground was found and the nature of a drunken hook up exposed. While often light-hearted, I felt this scene made interesting comment on the casual nature of relationships and sexual encounters within the club scene, presenting without judgment, the gritty underbelly of this side of social culture. It was a fitting and somewhat gross end to what was an exhausting yet enjoyable journey.

Overall, The Alleyway Project is a lot to chew on. The themes presented are shockingly real and hard to swallow in an intimate setting. This however, is also a huge strength of the show and one that I hope audiences do not shy away from. The actors are to be commended for rising to this challenge, as are the writers and director for their courageous choices. The Alleyway Project engagement with the space was also on the whole, highly successful, enlivening the quiet laneway in a manner that enhanced the poignancy of the themes inherent in the material, whilst embodying the true spirit of the Anywhere Theatre Festival.

The Alleyway Project

 

The Alleyway Project

 

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