night maybe is a mysterious and evocative work from Stuck Pigs Squealing, a collaborative theatre group looking hard at the spaces between imagination and concrete reality, at indentity under threat.
The set creates a sense of chill and menace; this is no place for a child. Real grass covers the stage so there's already a crispness in the air when you sit down. You could be in a footfall field but then the lights change and a few wintery trees tell you it's a park. Lights form a triad of inverted pyramids and mist wafts through them, a starkly exquisite opening image. Sasha (Sarah Ogden) and Tom (Tom Conroy) are brother and sister, they're lost, they need to move, to find their way. Tom doesn't want to go home; Sasha doesn't want to leave him.
The title of the play gives us a clue: maybe it's night-time; here, perhaps, are two people, or only one. Someone may end their own life in a river tonight – hints of suicide and the presence of the river being two strong motifs in the text. night maybe imaginatively and with much originality hauls an adolescent girl's fears to their feet and offers them up to the audience. Sasha uses a language of her own to articulate those fears. The work is beautifully written, with powerful details and images of the smallest of suburban lives; collectively these create a picture of a repressive and unsafe home, one Tom doesn't want to return to. Sasha is trying on different identities, all of them struggling to keep her feeling she can control herself in a threatening world. She talks about the weather, about the horrors of natural disasters, of ghosts and snow. An orange window suggests fire, leafless trees hint of an apocalyptic future. Black snow falls. In the park Sasha meets characters from her own psychology or from an imagined future; although she seems to be in danger, she comes to no harm. Sally (Conroy) is a sequinned and precocious but vulnerable schoolgirl. Sasha meets a young man in a dinner suit waiting for another man in a laneway (Marcus McKenzie), the spirit of a kindly Englishman lends her a coat (Brian Lipson delivers an intriguingly ambiguous performance here), then she comes across a young camper (McKenzie again) in a snowfall and reunites with Tom; all are surprising aspects of a possibly fragmenting personality attempting to make sense.
With night maybe you're not quite sure what's going on but that doesn't matter. Rather than feeling alienated or confused, you're intrigued, mesmerised, frightened yet seduced by Brookman's lyrical and bold writing. In terms of production, night maybe is reminiscent of the work of Jenny Kemp, with simple and stark images creating one of those 'theatre as magic' experiences. There's lightness, irony and humour, too, as we keep Sasha company during a long night.
Performers are Tom Conroy, Sarah Ogden, Marcus McKenzie and Brian Lipson. Direction is by Luke Mullins. Playwright Kit Brookman.
Stuck Pigs Squealing presents
by Kit Brookman
Directed by Luke Mullins
Venue: Theatre Works | 14 Acland St, St Kilda VIC
Dates: 15 Aug – 1 Sep 2013
Times: Tues – Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm
Tickets: $30 – $25
Bookings: 03 9534 3388 | www.theatreworks.org.au