Photo – John Feely
What delight to see something that looks truly different on the main stage, which is what MTC’s NEON Festival of Independent Theatre promises audiences. The Myth Project: Twin is a new work from Arthur (a theatrical partnership between director Paige Rattray and producer Belinda Kelly, working with writers Amelia Evans, Duncan Graham and Dan Giovanni) employs a huge cast of 43 including 34 adolescents from Launceston College in Tasmania. It’s a big work dealing with big themes and it uses a satisfying range of theatrical devices, the big cast being one of them. There’s lots of movement – a nod must go to choreographer Kurt Phelan – and stylish musical vignettes meaning the large chorus isn’t left with nothing to do on stage. The imagery works well with a sparkly set suggestive of an arena where disco meets ice cave.
Describing itself as ‘a mix of opera-noir, cabaret and naturalistic drama’, The Myth Project: Twin is a surreal circular sort of theatrical performance, most of the goings-on could be dream, symbol or could be realty; it’s hard to know which, but it doesn’t matter. Mystery is fine in theatre; we don’t need to have everything spelt out or our hands held along the way.
We have teenage protagonists, Ana and Elsie, twin girls who create and destroy in an intense world of their own devising – at times the story reminded me of Heavenly Creatures, that film by Peter Jackson based on real events in the Cashmere Hills in New Zealand’s South Island in the 1950s, where two friends, about to be separated, murder one of their mothers. It also reminded me of another film based on reality, the story of the ‘silent twins,’ teenage girls in Wales in the 1980s, locked in a competition with each other as to who would speak first, resulting in years of neither talking out loud (they could certainly communicate with each other).
The hugely heightened emotion around shared fantasy seems to be a universal experience for young girls; as though much of their potential is drawn into an emotional vortex where engagement with the outside world fuels a vaster agency of the imagination. This is what I got from Twin although its stated intentions are to explore myth-making on a larger social scale. This NEON production is part of a trinity with further productions coming up at Red Stitch Actors Theatre and Theatreworks; with the ambition of even inventing new myths for Australia. The genre of ‘Australian gothic’ so recognisable in literature is here blown up huge although the underpinnings of the narrative seemed either too broad or a touch vague. Anyway, something’s wrong and you do get the sense that it’s much more than ordinary old family dysfunction.
The stories and characters the girls make up are witty and delicious parodies of and comments on elements of the world outside, with all of society’s hypocrisy, sexuality and violence up for grabs in this carousel of imaginative play. A seductive rhinestone cowboy gets his come-uppance, the local cop is confused with evil deeds are committed by vengeful teens that resonate into a grown-up future. Singer/ songwriter/ performer Netta Yaschin, playing the girls’ mother, a Rose Hancock character called Aria, gets some extraordinarily poetic lines and delivers some of her own songs, bringing to her character a depth and dignity where it would have been easy to cloak her in simple parody. It has to be said, though, there are moments where her performance seems at odds with the rest of the piece, where this character’s journey is on its own trajectory which doesn’t always relate to the main story, such as it is. Aria is just one of series of familiar personalities rendered in a chiaroscuro portrait, the light and dark of her offering in stark contrasts.
This one won’t be to all tastes and there will be inevitable suggestions of school hall productions, but I liked it for its verve and exuberance and stylish ways of dealing with the bigness of it all.
THE MYTH PROJECT: TWIN
by Amelia Evans & Duncan Graham, with Dan Giovannoni
Director Paige Rattray
Venue: The Lawler | Southbank Theatre, Melbourne
Dates: 10-20 July, 2014
Bookings: 03 8688 0800
Part of the 2014 NEON Festival of Independent Theatre