“Clear your mind” says a voice in the darkness as Small Odysseys begins. Do this and you’ll find yourself on a poignant journey. If you don’t, you may get a bit lost in the search for meaning and narrative. Prudent then, to do as instructed.
Small Odysseys is about the journeys we take when we are lost at sea; how we feel when we’re being scrutinized or when we feel immensely small in a vast world. The choice of venue then – the Arts House – is an inspired one. Smart use of the cavernous space (16 by 50 meters) supports these themes perfectly. Images of isolation, self consciousnesses and self exploration are executed seamlessly through the collaborative efforts of the designers and the troupe.
Rawcus is a group of performers with and without disabilities, lead by Artistic Director and company founder Kate Sulan. Rawcus’ award winning works draw on dance, theatre and visual art disciplines, all of which are on compelling display in Small Odysseys.
The visual aesthetics of Small Odysseys are extraordinarily moving. Here, the set, lighting and sound designs are all characters unto themselves; the performers are completely immersed in the world created for them. The set, designed by sculptor Shaun Patten (whose credits include the Adam Elliot film Mary and Max and the stadium show Walking with Dinosaurs), includes three interiors of different sizes, small islands that are mounted on castors, and a boat. Amazing what you can fit into a large space. All are used to great effect (although I was disappointed not to see the three houses together on stage at some point), and complimented perfectly by Richard Vabre’s stunning lighting design. And art officiandos will delight in spotting a living, breathing recreation of Géricault’s Romantic masterpiece The Raft of the Medusa.
Amongst whimsy and a pervading sense of isolation are some touching moments of both humour and pathos. At several points the lights are turned on the audience and you find yourself both uncomfortable and acutely aware the tables have been turned and the performers are now watching you. You may need tissues at hand as one of the cast stands at the back wall, 50 metres away, and belts out The Impossible Dream at the top of her lungs. It’s hard to describe how this moment makes you feel, but the epic proportions of the space, that song, and the performer’s efforts is startlingly affecting.
All of the performances are strong and it’s clear the cast have been working together for some time. The movement work as a whole is extremely tight and well executed (watch out for a highly effective dance sequence towards the end that starts with a lone, talented dancer who is gradually joined by other cast members), although I did find some of the running sequences too long and too numerous.
Small Odysseys is cinematic in its visual scope. There are moments that take your breath away. If you clear your mind and let the soundscape and the images fill your head, you will find this experience immensely enjoyable and thought provoking.
Directed by Kate Sulan
Venue: Arts House, Meat Market, 5 Blackwood St, North Melbourne
Dates: Preview Wednesday 13 July, Season runs Thursday 14 - Saturday 23 July
Auslan interpreted performance: Friday 22 July at 7.30pm
Times: Wednesday – Saturday, 7.30pm; Sunday, 5pm; Matinee Friday 22 July, 1.30pm
Tickets: Full $30, Concession $15 (Preview $20 / $15)
Duration: 60 minutes, no interval
Bookings: artshouse.com.au or 03 9322 3713