Photos – David Parker
Red Stitch’s latest offering The Aliens is a brilliantly crafted production and a testament to why this company is in the midst of celebrating its tenth anniversary. With Annie Baker’s provoking text, they have taken a story which has the very real potential of becoming an elongated show of talking heads, and have instead presented Melbourne audiences with a delicate, intimate production of the highest calibre.
Set in the town of Shirley in America, the onset of The Aliens presents us with local layabouts Jasper (Brett Cousins) and KJ (Brett Ludeman), who daily set up camp behind a local coffee shop. Philosophical discussions about life, relationships and Bukowski abound, until the entrance of coffee shop employee Evan (David Harrison) and his nervous insistence that they really need to find somewhere else to...sit. The tale that follows is a thoroughly engaging examination of unlikely friendships and the impact people have on others’ lives. Baker’s writing is at once simple and brilliant. With The Aliens, she displays an acute understanding of how mindless, bravado-filled banter between youths is more often than not waterlogged with angst, frustration and self doubt.
Baker’s text aside, the performances in this production are exceptional. Such well written characters require actors who are up to the emotional challenge, and there are no disappointments. Certain moments are presented and pushed with such raw conviction by the players that the audience just doesn’t quite know how to react, and what an important thing it is to be ejected from a pillow laden comfort zone once in a while. Special mention must go David Harrison in the role of Evan, as the conviction and truth with which he inhabits the role belies a skill that is well beyond his years; and he is truly inspiring to watch.
Nadia Tass has directed this production with consideration, simplicity and truth. Though the plot of The Aliens could be labelled as being quite straightforward; the true skill here is in the layering. This production highlights that gentle layering and guidance by a skilled director takes a great text, and makes it into a superb production. It’s a wonderful thing to witness. With set design by Ben Shaw and lighting by resident designer Stelios Karagiannis, The Aliens runs until the 24th of September at Red Stitch and reinforces why Melbourne’s Independent Theatre scene is so highly regarded.
Red Stitch present
by Annie Baker
Directed by Nadia Tass
Venue: Red Stitch | Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East
Dates: 26 August – 24 September, 2011
Tickets: $34 Full, $24 Concession and $20 Student