Sandwiches is the first production of newly started independent theatre company, The Melbourne Town Players. It is set above WET hairdressing salon across three rooms, which by day form TMTP’s headquarters and by night, have been imaginatively transformed into a theatre space. With seating limited to 15 per performance, each audience member is individually invited to ascend a narrow staircase before the show’s commencement to observe the two central characters Billy (played by Terry Yeboah) and Paula (played by Lauren Urquhart) playing in their respective installations (an inside garden and a table toy land).
The piece, written by Elise Hearst and Nicholas Coghlan, is an intriguing exploration of the emotionally confused worlds of Billy and Paula. The text is detailed and divergent in style wherein the characters’ reflections and reactions to their mother’s death are mostly juxtaposed and sparingly truly unified. Although skilfully integrated by director and set designer, Ming Zhu-Hii, the dialogue is sometimes difficult to digest and place in context. Bouncing from unexpected transgressions into childhood, grappling with unrequited love of various types to quick soliloquies riddled with grief stricken insecurity and anger, the work leaves much open to personal interpretation.
Yeboah and Urquhart masterfully provide texture and humour to the affections and predicaments of their respective characters. They seamlessly step in and out from and between repelled and intimate states within the unclear boundaries of their relationship as brother and sister. Particular highlights are Billy’s reaction to Paula’s “announcement” that she is pregnant, the loaded discussion between the pair while Paula laces Billy’s boots, the unrest triggered by playing ring-a-round a rosy, and the hopeful yet sad embrace accompanied by the rhythm of Billy’s recitation of a series of psychologically based questions and answers.
Every aspect of this work is well referenced and considered, despite the shoe string budget. For example, Billy’s use of the telephone is marked by his drawing and colouring in of the same. The records played intermittently on the small gramophone in the corner of the room bolster the right selection of scenes. Zhu-Hii’s set and installation design is both inventive and witty. The seating area comprising of bright red pillows and small light wooden stools matches the forty or so small framed photocopied black and white pictures of characters or scenes from well known fairytales. Glass jars filled with Derwent pencils and textas occupy the mantel piece in front of antique fairytale and Peter Rabbit books.
One should not expect to immediately understand or fully appreciate the full breadth of this work as it unfolds. It has lingering qualities which impress on the viewer after the fact. TMTP has certainly raised the bar high with its inaugural production, which possesses an abundance of creative flair and all round vision of its collaborators.
The Melbourne Town Players present
by Nicholas Coghlan and Elise Hearst
Directed by Ming-Zhu Hii
Venue: Level 2, 175 St. Georges Road, Fitzroy North – Access via Rear, from Tranmere Street.
Dates: Wednesday, 21st January – Saturday, 7th February 2009
Times: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday @ 7pm & 8.30pm (Opening Night 8.30pm show only)
Thursday, Friday and Saturday @ 8.30pm
Tickets: $20 Concession, $30 Full. Cheap Mondays: All tickets $15