Left - Glynis Angell and Fiona Roake
As Director Vanessa Chapple comments, Haul Away is a "personal story of relationships, tragedy and inevitability", the making of which the creators did not shy away from. First performed in 2006, Haul Away is the product of three years of creating "spent in cycles of writing, talking, researching, devising, composing and structuring". It is a production imbued with the "deep questioning" of its writers, performers, and director, who have sought to reinforce the reason, value and purpose of their work throughout the creative process. Although the first run of Haul Away at La Mama received affirming responses from the audience, the opportunity to once again delve into Haul Away's themes of sickness, alienation and death proved both "exciting and daunting".
Haul Away tells the story of terminally ill Kate whose imminent death from cancer pervades the play, forcing her family relationships and almost-lost life to fall into sharp reflection and revelation. From the beginning of the play, the audience are invited to accompany a jovial Irish traveller as she tells the story about the quandary of life, loss, illness and death. All these characters - the traveller, the dying woman named Kate, various family members and friends - are depicted by one actor, Glynis Angell. Haul Away employs a very complicated story telling technique, embedding the perspectives of a great many characters into an overarching narrative which is directly recited to the audience by the traveller. While this approach enables various characters' perspectives to be used as a vehicle to illuminate the central themes in Haul Away, the method of requiring one actor to embody multiple characters sometimes confounds the flow and cogency of the narrative. In some scenes, the characters were difficult to distinguish and the dialogue of two characters occasionally seemed to conflate, inhibiting the capacity of characters to become tangible, three dimensional, and genuinely embedded in the story. In addition to this, the theatricality required to distinguish the characters, sometimes pushed them to unrealistic extremes.
Despite this, Haul Away poignantly and interestingly interrogates concepts such as the "disintegrating body", the assumed order-of-death "contract" (parents before children) and the "spiritual documentation of the role of suffering as transformative and necessary". The musical compositions of Fiona Roake, create an engaging backdrop in the play, embellishing the narrative portrayed by Angell. Indeed, the music evocatively seizes upon the themes and emotions which inform Haul Away, adding an important subtlety and introspective element to the performance.
Chapple, who wrote Haul Away with actor Glynis Angell, comments that the design was "central" to the performance as it was important to "create a set and lighting design which supports the emotional landscapes of the work without interfering with the apparent simplicity of the storytelling". While the inventive uncovering of panels around the set brought colourful expression and context to the play, the technique could have been enhanced if it had been more substantially anchored to the narrative, thereby taking better advantage of its effect and charm.
While Haul Away has a complicated story-telling structure that demands a great deal of concentration, dedication and precision from its performers, it tackles its monumental subject matter with humour, movement and music while also eliciting a great deal of laughter from its audience.
La Mama presents
by Glynis Angell and Vanessa Chapple
Directed by Vanessa Chapple
Venue: Carlton Courthouse
Dates: 30 Apr – 16 May, 2009
Times: 8pm, 6.30pm Wed & Sun; 3pm Sat
Bookings: 03 9347 6142