Rarely do we get an opportunity to engage with life's big questions that offers both intellectual and philosophical nourishment in a way that is also life-affirming and tremendous fun. Daisy Chain is such an opportunity.
In what marks the professional debut of promising new production house Rouse House Theatre Company, Daisy Chain tackles what it means to search for knowledge and for love, and finds striking parallels in our pursuit of both.
Sarah (Jessica Barnden) and Toby (Michael McStay) are on a picnic in the woods in the middle of nowhere... somewhere... anywhere... when they become separated. Pandemonium, as it were, ensues. Most of the play takes place as these two friends try to find each other in a village which, while small, they both seem curiously unable to leave. Along the way they are variously helped or hindered by the village's inhabitants, who are each absurdly infuriating and immensely appealing. No-one quite sees things the way the others do, but frustratingly, each's own perspective on the world cannot help but be shaped by the standpoint of the others. Hell, it seems, is other people.
To say much more about the story would be to ruin much of the fun. Suffice to say the script sizzles with clever wordplay as the narrative meanders along in a pleasantly disarming pattern of absurd exchanges and shrewd observational wit. The writing is tight, the characters both complementary and complete in themselves, and the assorted story threads eventually tie together in a gentle yet satisfying conclusion. It is a production clearly both cast and crew believe in, as the care and cohesion of the whole ensemble shows in everything from the production design to the pamphlet accompanying the show.
That is not to say there is no room for improvement. There always is. There were a few flubbed lines on opening night and one wonders if the dramatic payoff of including the occasional juggling routine is worth the technical risk - some of the cast occasionally dropped the ball which led to some awkward upstaging and sheepish grins. The method employed for the scene changes, while dramatically valid, meant such sequences were overlong in parts and endured in stiff silence which frequently deadened the otherwise lively and whimsical pace. Music may have helped here, and indeed if there was one element lacking from the overall production design it was a richer auditory experience. The set design however was impressive in its simplicity and versatility, the rather eerie lighting helping to create a sense that this space was nowhere... anywhere... but somewhere.
Describing Daisy Chain is nothing like experiencing it. Much of the joy comes from watching the two naive protagonists not comprehending what's happening to them, their understanding being gradually fed by others until they are able to make sense of things in their own way. This is the same journey the audience undertakes and it is immensely rewarding and fun. Don't miss the opportunity to partake in it - you may find you don't want to leave.
Rouse House Theatre Company present
by Alan Skinner and Eryn Skinner
Directed by Eryn Skinner
Venue: Theatre Works
Dates: 12 - 21 Aug 2010
Times: 8.00pm Monday to Saturday
Tickets: $25 Full / $15 Conc / Mon-Wed half price (+ Booking Fee)
Bookings: www.theatreworks.org.au | 9534 3388