Left – Helen Howard. Cover – Chris Vernon. Photos – Al Caeiro
Colder is right; it’s getting ridiculously freezing in Brisbane at the moment (oh please, every-one who is seeing this show is thinking about that pun...). Like all slightly pretentious theatre people, I found warmth and shelter in a suitable bar before the show – the La Boite Indie Bar (more of a lounge really), and I’m very much looking forward to getting back there for the rest of the La Boite Indie season. Colder by Lachlan Philpott (who showed his support by attending opening night) is the first show in the La Boite Indie season, and with the current buzz surrounding emerging director Michelle Miall, it was easy to see why.
Everything in Colder is centred around one event: on a family holiday, single mother Robyn and her young son David visit the happiest place on earth, Disneyland, complete with giant teacups, obese tourists, and the standard piles of puke that can only be expected in a place of FUN. David suddenly disappears, and all the patronising quips from staff and grotesque melodies do nothing to calm the distraught Robyn. Seven hours later the lost little boy reappears. But the encounter is never truly spoken of, and it influences the rest of Robyn and David’s lives. And one day, years later, David goes missing again.
An affecting and tragic story, Colder demands a lot of its audience. The very form of the play seems exhausting; littered with time jumps, split scenes and time jumps within the split scenes – whew! Not easy to grasp but director Michelle Miall simplified things enough to let the story speak for itself, without resorting to spoon feeding her audience.
Unfortunately however, with what seemed like an awful lot of lighting cues and a splurge of black outs throughout the entire story, the tension was continually re-broken and then rebuilt. The imposition of the constant lighting changes jarred the potential of audience investment – and as there were no huge scene changes or major costume changes throughout, the blackouts seemed unnecessary.
The carefully conducted composition of voices throughout the play was inspiring. The choral work of the ensemble was theatrical enough to be interesting but conversational enough to have moments of heartbreaking connection. The vocal arrangement underscored the similarity of each character’s emotional journey. As an audience we watch as their cravings for connection – to love and be loved – eat away at each of them as time continues its slow trudge, and the tragedy that unfolds is the knowledge that the isolation and exile they feel is more often than not self-imposed.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. The fine line between tragedy and comedy is beautifully danced upon. The show wasn’t lost in its darkness, and there were many laughs to be had, both with and at the characters.
While the cast was filled with strong actors, at times it seemed as though there was a serious lack of chemistry from David (Chris Vernon) and his string of lovers (Kevin Spink in multiple roles). David was so central to everything and everyone in the story that I just longed for more energy and more presence – I wanted to see what the other characters apparently saw in him. It’s a fine line between playing a character that can’t connect with other characters and a character that isn’t connecting with an audience. I’m not sure which side I was more convinced of.
That being said, I was invested in the struggles of David’s mother (both Alison McGirr and Helen Howard as Robyn 33 and 59 years respectively), his lover Ed (Tony Brockman) and his best friend (Kerith Atkinson). It was, after all, not just David’s story but the story of those around him; not getting enough connection of vulnerability from him does, in a way, place the audience in the same position as his mother and friends.
Colder is a lovely show, with some wonderful moments. The supportive environment in which it was created, and the success of the end product should give hope to other Independent artists out in Brisbane.
I do encourage every-one to go out, see this production, make up your own mind and tell others what you thought.
La Boite Indie and Michelle Miall present
by Lachlan Philpott
Director Michelle Miall
Venue: La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove
Dates: Wed 23 June – Sun 10 July, Tue & Wed 6.30pm, Thu – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $20 – $28
Bookings: 07 3007 8600 | laboite.com.au