Presented by: Flying Penguin Productions
Reviewed 6 Sept 2018
Sometimes its hard to separate the genius in an evening of work that has two actors supported by a director (David Mealor) not afraid to facilitate empathy from an audience, a designer (Kathryn Sproul) who is not afraid to allow the actors to be the focus supported by minimal, subtle and supportive surroundings and costumes. Then of course there’s the sensitivity of the text enhanced by soundscapes (Will Spartels for Bitch Boxer and Quentin Grant for Sea Wall) which are so much an integral part of the action they become the supporting voices for the journey of the work. And the deft shifts of Chris Petridis’ lighting and those elegant soundscapes guided by a sensitive and supportive stage management crew of one (Deborah Knapp) moving and shifting us effortlessly through time and space. The physical embodiment the actors imbued their characters with were icing on the cake and without a doubt the work of two consummate professionals.
As you might have guessed I was really impressed by these two works staged in the user-friendly Studio at the Goodwood Institute. I like my theatre to make me feel like I am part of the story and Jordan Cowan and Renato Musolino pick you up invite you into their world. They involve you effortlessly in two stories that take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions in this uncluttered blank canvas that the actors fill with imaginative reconstructions of the worlds they occupy.
Bitch Boxer by Charlotte Josephine allows Cowan to show a complexity and range of emotions that engage and guide us through a story that is funny, raw, moving and constantly shifting. It is a beautifully written and crafted piece of text. Her lively character, simple but effective costuming and authentic accent allow us into the world of this eager young woman on her journey through misadventure, and kismet, on the road to her goal – boxing for her country in the Olympics. Sliding with ease from the portrayal of one character after another, her ability to shift and change at the drop of a hat is breathtaking. Cowan also knows how to contact and energise her audience. The unflinching eye contact involving random audience members in her journey is never intimidating, sometimes challenging, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, she always allows you to join her in her search for that elusive something we all search for, the reason we always push away from us what we most need. Mealor’s deft hand always allows the actor to transform your reality as you watch the story unfold. Never afraid to let Cowan own her emotional through-line he allows her to bring alive emotions without allowing you to see it coming making this piece of work a joy to watch.
After interval, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water – Renato Musilino is waiting for us as we go back into the space to find a seat for Sea Wall by Simon Stevens. The emergency exit door is open to the road, there is no furniture in the space and Musilino in a black suit over a T shirt is outside, looking as if he is waiting for someone. He comes in, closes the door and as he starts to speak to us – the world as we know it goes away and we are transported into the safe and warm environment of his relationship and we instantly become his closest friend and confidant as this actor breathes life into every moment of this superbly written text. His beautiful partner soon to be wife is finely drawn for us, her enigmatic and slightly eccentric father who lives in the South of France appears, as if by magic, we experience getting to know strangers and grow quickly to love the family that Musilino creates for us. We experience with him the growth of a relationship, the much anticipated visits to France, the birth of a child and the joy she brings to the whole family as she grows up and wins the hearts of all of us, the description of simple, mundane tasks come alive for us to experience. There are moments where Musilino makes time stand still as he casts his spell over us, most memorably as we are left breathless at the sight of his wife in a blue dress. It’s like being held in the embrace of a relationship where nothing interferes with its growth.
The sharp pain that shatters the peace of this relationship has to be experienced to fully appreciate how, again, this piece has been beautifully crafted in the collaboration between director and actor. The emotional intelligence of the actor, the all-seeing eye of a sympathetic and nurturing director, the choice of actor that so perfectly suits the work.
We have some world class theatre practitioners that live and work in Adelaide, actors you should be rushing to buy a ticket to see. On September the 6th 2018 I saw two of them at The Goodwood Institute guided by the hand of a brilliant director and supported by a creative team that know their work. We all need the stimulus of creativity to enrich our lives and at the opening night of Solo I was given riches beyond my wildest dreams as I was allowed into the private world of two exceptional characters.
This is a South Australian Premier of this double bill from Flying Penguin Productions – it deserves to play to full houses.
Review by Adrian Barnes
Venue: The Goodwood Institute – The Studio
Season: September 5 – 16 2018
Duration: 1hr30mins Interval 20mins
Tickets: Adult $32.00 Concession $15.00