A train wreck. A life derailed. Stop this train - I want to
get off. Railroad metaphors for life are ubiquitous in our day-to-day
existence. What could a street act turned theatre performance, based solely on
this ages-old concept, have to offer that audiences have never seen or that
wouldn’t appear nauseatingly clichéd? Well, thankfully, Kellogg’s had it right
all along: the simple things in life are often the best.
Created, written and performed by Swiss-born artist Tom Greder and directed by Scott Witt, All Aboard begins with an elaborate take on the kind of audience interaction often seen in pre-show crowd entertainment at theme parks. In his role as a French-speaking train conductor in need of serious dental work, Greder directs audience members to their seats as the eerie smoke and sounds of an old train platform invite them into this simple yet effective world. Tickets are checked, classes are imposed and blank faces abound as the conductor shouts orders in his native tongue. A number of props are sprung on those lucky enough to have chosen the right seats and the seemingly random exploits are cut short as the train arrives - symbolically, of course - and the show proper begins.
Taking on the role of Oskar - a young man in a red chechia (fez-like) cap - Greder has a wonderfully convincing physicality as he moves about the stage as though he’s on a bumpy train. Taking a seat to open a gift he’s been carrying under his arm, he slowly reveals a series of small toys representing family, friends, religion and nature and - most importantly - a battery-operated train set. Suddenly, the role of the audience becomes clear in a moment so ingenious in its simplicity that you almost feel a sense of foolhardiness for not seeing it earlier. All the while, Greder remains silent in his prompts and the audience participation becomes entirely natural. As the train begins its journey, the performance becomes nothing short of mesmerising.
Representing both the mundane and adventurous nature of life, the train moves about a small table, weaving around the props as Greder skilfully ensures its continued journey. Not only is it a feat of pure physical dexterity, patience and swift thinking, it is a commendable skill whereby major significance is placed upon this otherwise inconsequential toy. The transfixed audience cannot help but sigh when the train momentarily derails and cheer as it overcomes the odd bump or seemingly impossible odds. A fun, communal sense of appreciation for all of life’s ups and downs - from birth to death - can be felt throughout the room and, as the conductor reappears, audience participation reaches its peak for a light-hearted finale. Utterly hilarious, sweet and never failing to impress, Greder’s show is as close to perfect as I’ve seen in quite some time.
Following a long journey around the world, All Aboard stops at Brisbane’s Metro Arts centre until the 1st of December. I couldn’t recommend the ride more highly.
Created, written and performed by Tom Greder
Venue: Sue Benner Theatre
Dates: Wed 14 November 2007 - Sat 1 December 2007
Times: Wed - Sat: 7:30pm
Tickets: Adults $20/ Conc. $16/ Preview $12/ Group (10+) $12
Bookings: (07) 3002 7100