By Holly Ferguson
Directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler, The Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of Lally Katz’s, The Eisteddfod, is a true testament to Perth’s talented theatre community.
The success of this show rides on the intelligent choices made in all areas of the production, on and off stage. Entering Abalone (Brendan Ewing) and Gerture’s (Natalie Holmwood) world is not an easy feat. It’s a place constructed by the damaged yet remarkable characters, which requires no inhibitions to access.
The set, designed by recent WAAPA graduate, Tyler Hill, is initially jarring to the eye as the decaying and distressed room, hosting a toilet near the center, fills the audience with concern for the seemingly isolated characters. The use of levels through a bunk bed and set of cupboards, that serves as a mezzanine of sorts, extends the characters’ world of make believe and demonstrates their child-like nature. Clumps of boxes fill the room proving the instability of the characters whilst serving as useful storage for the many comedic props, like a disco ball… that I now want. Hill’s eye for detail and clever design choices were also recently demonstrated in Black Swan’s last show, Endgame, fresh onto the theatre scene he is definitely someone to keep tabs on.
Katz’s bizarre yet genius writing is quite clearly not an effortless undertaking. It requires dedication and a willingness to throw one’s self completely into the piece, accepting the challenging content. Both Ewing and Holmwood have accepted this tasking piece, fully embodying the demanding characters of Abalone and Gerture. Ewing’s physicality of Abalone is successfully awkward and hilarious while Holmwood’s Gerture is resolute and equally hysterical. The casting could not have been better; Ewing and Holmwood are truly a dynamic duo.
At 70 minutes in duration, the pacing of The Eisteddfod is perfect. Each scene goes for just the right amount of time, not dragging out or going too fast, as it could have easily fallen into. Fowler’s directing leaves no ifs or buts and fully encompasses the space, unapologetically launching the audience into Abalone and Gerture’s lives. Fowler’s use of movement and blocking on stage harmonizes well with the script adding an extra layer of intrigue to the work.
I did feel the need to question the use of radio mics. They were useful for one scene for effective whispering, however, I feel they were redundant through the rest of the studio show.
Don’t let the ambiguity of this show put you off, it’s a well-produced piece of theatre and although it does harbor some serious and confronting themes, it is absolutely hilarious. The Eisteddfod is incredibly clever, enjoyable and definitely a show you cannot afford to miss this year.
The Eisteddfod is playing from the 22nd of June to the 9th of July. Book your tickets here: http://www.bsstc.com.au/season-2017/the-eisteddfod/
Use the code DOUBLETROUBLE at checkout to get two tickets for the price of one!