Presented by Priori Projects
Reviewed 15 February 2018
From a cave of plastic sheets, a white Australian male emerges from his den to the soothing tones of a David Attenborough commentary. This is how First Name Unknown begins, and it’s probably the sanest portion of this show. In truth, it’s sort of a hard project to describe. It’s everything and nothing, encompassing detention centres, white male privilege and the foundations of modern theatre. That these seemingly disparate ideas find themselves fusing nicely is testament to the creative strength behind the show. However, the execution does not meet the bar raised by the ideas behind them. This is an impressive concept that, unfortunately, is let down by a muddled production.
The entire project (Show? Play? Art piece? No descriptor seems adequate) is performed by one man (whose name is not revealed, on the Fringe website or in any event programmes). He is determined in his grand vision, pushing through technical issues and staging troubles to make the show’s ideas come to the fore. He has a very informal manner, moving through each stage of the piece fluidly and comfortably. Unfortunately, he is not supported by an overbearing soundtrack, which threatens to swallow up his presence entirely. Resounding voices overlapping with each other only serve to confuse rather than make clear what is at stake. It also seems mildly ironic that a piece riffing off of Greek theatre has no other players present to fulfil the required drama (though background issues seems to be the cause of this).
The Bakehouse has a reputation for being a versatile space, and that is demonstrated amply here. The set design is essentially sheets of sheer yellow and orange plastic draped over a clothesline. Though that description may sound unappealing, the effect is actually striking—and, when paired with some first-rate lighting design the space changes into an otherworldly and menacing world. When matched with the better portions of the sound design, the production comes together quite beautifully.
First Name Unknown is an ambitious project that, given deserved time and care, can be something truly astounding.
Reviewed by CJ McLean
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Venue: The Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage
Season: 12.2.18 to 24.2.18
Tickets: Adults $23, Conc $18, etc.