19
May
16

Backyard Double Bill

 

Backyard Double Bill

Anywhere Festival & Backyard Theatre Collective

Toowong Bowls Club

May 12 – 21 2016

Reviewed by Jackson Kellaway

anywhere2016 Backyard Double Bill printed program

I love going to see shows in Brisbane’s Anywhere Festival. It’s always a real surprise to see how the directors are going to use the space with which they have chosen to work. Anywhere Festival forces audience members to go to places they may never have been before. I remember exploring an antique shop during intermission of a show last year.

First cab off the rank for me at this year’s festival was Backyard Theatre Collective’s Double BillThe Picnic and Saying Goodbye to Ally, at Toowong Bowls Club, where I’d never been before.

The Picnic is a piece written by Tremayne Gordon and directed by Kristen Maloney. Previously performed at The Festival of Australian Student Theatre (FAST) it had a sold out season and for good reasons that became clear to me on the night. This piece is set at a picnic that has been organised by Ash, however; she doesn’t show. The strangers, who are all friends of Ash, are now left to test heir own patience and to see who will crumble or, in this case, who will cake.

As soon as the audience walks into the room the stage is live with two characters, Kat (Tess Middleton) and Maggie (Gemma Elsom) standing in the middle of the space with huge awkward smiles on their faces, an awkward stance and wearing ponchos covered with cream. The two stand there until the audience has been seated and it’s time to start. Throughout the piece we begin to see the actors meet each other and reflect on what all of us have been through when we first meet mutual friends. We see these strangers become friends, enemies, lovers, all in 45 minutes. 

The Picnic is a delightful show. The use of butchers paper and even the movement of chairs is used in place of props, which is clever and effective. The audience interaction is great and I wish I’d had the chance to wear my poncho. The short vignettes give the audience insight into each individual character; a small touch, connecting the audience that little bit more. The piece features clever writing by Tremayne and fantastic artistic direction from Kristen.

Kristen also wrote and directed the second half of this double bill, Saying Goodbye to Ally. This piece is definitely a contrast to the previous, and goes to a darker, more sombre place. It is a modern day take on the Euripides’ story of Alcestis who gave up her own life so her husband could live longer. However, surprisingly this piece shines a light on suicide. Kristen has written cleverly, using humour in such a way so as not to marginalise the audience or leave them depressed. It balances on a knife’s edge throughout. She does a good job of ensuring it is well balanced for the entirety of the show. With minimal props and staging, the artistic approach is well executed. All actors play their characters with heart and passion. The standout is Bowden and her portrayal of ten-year-old Alice. Her energetic personality stops short before the older sibling in you comes out and tells her to go to her room. Tremayne Gordon’s different ‘hood voices’ are clear, accurate and surprising. With playwriting and acting up his sleeve it will be exciting to see where Tremayne’s future will take him.

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