Friday, 23 November 2012

A Glimpse of Melbourne

One Melbourne attraction often overlooked by travellers is its vibrant independent theatre scene.

The big musical theatre productions are easy to find, courtesy of their plentiful publicity and grand 19th century theatres.

Similarly, the state-owned Arts Centre on the south bank of the Yarra River is a tourist drawcard, staging drama, opera and concerts.

Independent theatre companies have less money for promotion, and their venues are often tucked away in compact premises outside the city centre.

But their productions, often freshly-minted works from local playwrights, can be the most stimulating live fare in town.

One of the the most accessible indie venues is Fortyfivedownstairs, situated inside an multi-level brick commercial building in the central business district's southeast corner. Below its art galleries, the theatre is a large airy space with much flexibility for the staging of live works.

Last week, Narrelle and I saw Glimpse there. Devised by the newly formed Kin Collective company and directed by Laura Maitland and Noni Hazlehurst, Glimpse explores the chance interactions of everyday life which sometimes go nowhere, but which are often significant.

The work is presented as a series of discrete scenes, each focusing on a particular interaction. The first is between two homeless men; another between two nurses; another between argumentative siblings; and so on.

As the work progresses, we see characters recur. One of the homeless men shows up in a church, mourning his long-lost son, for example. In another scene, one of the nurses talks to her lover in a laundromat. There are connections between them, we realise, and start to trace the threads.

A particularly touching scene for me as a frequent traveller, was the brief interaction between one of the siblings bursting into tears at an airport, and a woman who tries to comfort him without being able to speak his language. It's a glimpse of the famous "kindness of strangers" which we rely on more than we realise.

It's a uniformly good cast, with well-defined characters and effective delivery. A standout as the teacher is Marg Downey, best known for her TV comedy work but here a convincing dramatic actor.

There are some excellent design elements in Glimpse. Simple but intriguing are the shades of red and grey which recur in the actors' costumes, a hint perhaps of the extremes of warmth and coldness in human interaction.

Projected onto the wall behind the actors are illustrations neatly depicting the location of each scene, drawn by cartoonist Jason Chatfield, best known as the current artist on the Ginger Meggs comic strip. There's even a dash of animation in some of them, such as revolving bundles of laundry in the laundromat setting.

Glimpse is a fine work, ably illustrating the connections and misconnections which are triggered by human contact. It's well worth seeing if you're in Melbourne over the next week or so.

Glimpse runs until 2 December 2012 at Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Bookings via 03 9662 9966 or the venue's website.

[And with this 50th post for the year, Aerohaveno is taking a break until January 2013. See you then... and happy travels in the meantime!]