Photos – Jamie Breen
There comes a time in independent theatre when a team of artists is gently nudged along a serendipitous path to create something special and unique. Their work is a telling display of the bright ideas and sincere intentions churning away in their hearts and minds. Their product seems effortless, uncluttered by pretense, and clear as a bell; it manages to cut through the dense space between audience and artist to make connections. Under This Sun is one such production.
Director/Producer Warwick Doddrell has apparently been stealthily plugging away at his career, and cites a background in physical theatre and film training. He and his three performers have developed something that embraces a gentle fluidity between theatrical styles. Under This Sun is poetic in all senses, visual, literal, and sonic, and the team is entirely comfortable diving into the mix and using all the tools available to them as artists.
The piece is about three young people who trek into the Australian bush, each saddled with his or her own burden or goal. They meet briefly in a bar before setting out individually, and their journeys unfold simultaneously until their paths cross after several days of wandering alone with little more than their own thoughts. They manage to overcome both physical and mental dangers and forge ahead despite the apparent folly of their endeavours. They are pioneers, searchers, lost; they remain undaunted.
Doddrell’s staging is rich with ingenuity, surprise and gentleness, as are the set design by Tessa Darcey and the lighting design of Emily Crane. The performers work on a raised platform covered with orange dirt, under a canopy of water bottles that descend to represent the night sky, with lighting that creates the effect of a campfire. When one actor is in monologue, the other two remain on stage to become set pieces, puppeteers or just quietly immersed in the play’s universe to support the featured actor. At other times, the trio comes together, showing very comfortable physical unity with one another to give us an indication of their shared journeys, though they remain in separate narratives for the most part.
The seed from this piece came from the poetry and prose of Australian writers Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, and as such its ideas are reverential about the land and all its harsh beauty. The characters maintain an archetypal aspect while still being fully fleshed-out and accessible to a modern audience. These young people charge ahead in spite of nature, in spite of themselves, in spite of their families, at first chasing something external. In the end, they discover their internal worth and manage to reconcile themselves to their fate.
This beautiful work is essential viewing this season, and will likely be one of the top independent productions we’ll see this year. It’s a complete package, engaging all the senses, finding humour and a gentle emotional power that delves into part of the collective Australian psyche.
The Emergence Co. presents
Under This Sun
Director Warwick Doddrell
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre | 53 James Street, Northbridge WA
Dates: 19 May – 6 June, 2015
Tickets: $15 – $25