Photos – Sophie Neate
A gymnasium inside a school hall, dimly lit, full of dusty chalk, ropes, a pommel horse, crash mat, shadows, a prism of light slashing the centre of the floor where stands three young people, heads slightly hung, and waiting, brimming with energy. This is Tenderness.
Christos Tsiolkas’s, Ugly, written with similar intensity to ‘Head On’, has a thematic punching line of ‘wanting to be so ugly it makes the pretty girls puke’. This play bursts at the seams with adrenaline. The story unfolds of one boy, and his girlfriend, and their best friend, a tomboy who’s pulsing with passion and philosophy. Issues of sexual exploration, rejection, violence, love, family loyalty and finding a place to belong all fight for space in the play, and rest in the brutality that ensues.
Finely energized performances by Stephanie Capiron, Matt Hickey, Rebecca Mezei with sound composition by Kelly Ryall, creates the feeling that something more is going to happen outside this place. It does. Ugly is an expression of frustration, anger and wanting to be something other, other than ugly.
The second hand to Tenderness is Slut by Patricia Cornelius. It has a strong, rolling narrative, poetic and image-evoking in every way. The colourful, theatrical storytelling driven by a chorus of three women, came loose, the timing of unified speaking, slightly out of sync, moving forward like a cartwheel with a broken spoke. Unfortunately, alongside this, Ryall’s initially, unnerving, humid sound composition became a relentless buzzing, continuing non-stop for forty-eight minutes.
The direction by Nadja Kostich, overwhelmed the subtext of the plays, and by doing so, inhibited the visceral, making it introverted. While visually striking, entertaining and thought provoking on a physical, ‘immediate’ level, I felt the depth of meaning that the extremely talented ensemble could have brought to Tenderness, was not fully explored. Kostich says ‘in creating the gestural language of the piece, it has the potential to bind two distinct stories’. Choreographed, uniform, gestural motifs used in both plays, linked the two worlds, marvelously.
Overall, Tenderness is a magnificently successful production in its aim of highlighting big questions, and igniting the conversation about them. It is, without a doubt, some of the most thought-provoking theatre I have experienced, guided by a plethora of highly accomplished practitioners and of extremely high value. Even now, as I write, at 12.04am, I ask myself the question... do I simply need a little tenderness and what is slut? Yes...the conversation continues...
Platform Youth Theatre and Footscray Community Arts Centre in Association with A.R.A.B (VASS) present
Ugly by Christos Tsiolkas
Slut by Patricia Cornelius
Directed by Nadja Kostich
Venue: Footscray Community Arts Centre, Footscray
Dates: August 31 – September 11, 2011
Tickets: $20 – $5