METAFOUR

Glorious Thing Theatre Co/Ashfield Artist Xchange

at PACT theatre Erskinville

Playwright – Samuel Beckett

Director – Erica Brennan

Performers – Aslam Abdus-samad, Bodelle De Ronde, Victoria Greiner, Sophie Littler, Pollyanna Nowicki and Gideon Payten-Griffiths

30 July – 15th August

Four Samuel Beckett short plays – Quad, Rockaby, Come and Go, Catastrophe

Review-

Beckett, you can’t change a thing…his estate is severely strict on compliance with the playwrights written (or in the case of Quad being an un-printed TV play) work. This I feel for the Australian scene is both refreshing and a much-needed injection for our independent and professional stages. In director Erica Brennan’s directors letter in the programme she says, I quote ‘In a contemporary context that values innovation, recreation, reinvention, adaptation and the newest/sexiest creative vision, these restrictions on creative licence are abominations. Aren’t they?’ I sense this comment is said with a bit of tongue-in-cheek and jest at anyone who would consider licence restrictions to be an abomination, (correct me if I am wrong Ms.Brennan). From what I know of Brennan as an artist she has solid training and has a clear focus on the kind of theatre she wishes to practice, favourable strengths in her advantage. The challenge of a Beckett work is for an artist who has the capacity to take another’s vision and do it with full respect, vigour and humility. There is a lot of “artists” in Sydney who are focusing on the contemporary approach to theatre practice with visual aspects an eyeful feast but with great cost to the art of the actor, especially physically which is a dire state of events to witness 90% of the time. Our professional stages especially under certain directors visions sadly display it at its worst. Style has taken over, and the actor…more so than not is left to their own physical devices. This makes me wonder/wish these folk focus perhaps on becoming installation or visual artists instead of theatre practitioners if that is what interests them the most. Brennan and cast refreshingly do not fall into this sad case of repetitive events. Every now and then you get a glimpse of gold like what occurs in Metafour, the restrictions are in their favour.

Erica Brennan has taken on a mighty challenge with Beckett’s short works, and has done so as mentioned in the programme with the methods of Tadashi Suzuki in focus. Just reading that on the website made my soul go a flutter! Again, theatre practitioners don’t seem to utilise or take in to consideration the powerful ways methods such as Suzuki’s can make an actors performance more profound than any fancy set or script could do alone. The lack of consideration into these foundational methods which prove over and over again to give the actor a physical quality to character, beyond themselves and from themselves produces a depth of quality that can be not be measured in value when it comes to performance. Other methods that commit to this quality are Meyerhold, Grotowski, Brecht and my personal favourite Artaud… we NEED MORE of this in Sydney. It was an absolute pleasure to witness this level of dedication in Metafours’ actors, who have clearly invested a vast amount of time into their physicality into these genius (and indeed) performance art pieces of Beckett theatre. The observation of stillness, the use of silence and the almost chronic licensing states that must be taken in to consideration in rehearsals must at times been gruelling but no doubt a rewarding result. As an audience member we had to work, work to observe what we don’t understand, take a moment to observe how we respond to these pieces and to work at focusing on what we are witnessing. It is such a shame that we generally are so eager or used to being entertained we have forgotten the responsibility of being an audience. With our jaded concepts or meaning of the word ‘art’, ‘entertainment’ or perhaps what theatre should BE to us, or how it is FOR us. I firmly believe the best theatre should challenge us somehow, make us think in someway and make us react in some form. I had to shhh an audience member who clearly had no concept of Beckett or the patience to evaluate his boredom or discontent as a part of an experience. Instead he took his boredom as a face value permission to shut down his senses. It’s a real shame, border line depressing actually. I’ll be the first to admit that I have to put myself into a certain frame of mind, an open-frame of mind to engage with Beckett’s work. It is NOT an easy task nor often a night of laughs or hopeful outcomes, but that is the brilliance of the mind inside the man. It is frustrating that a lot of society are turning into goldfish. Microsoft recently put out a survey on the human attention span…the result for 2015? We are one point away from the attention span of a goldfish due to our access to content via smart technology. Tech. is making us smarter and stupider all at once, with beautiful work like Beckett’s suffering on stage because its audience struggles to value it in its full capacity as they wonder how their social platforms are trending or treading. This in mind clearly prior the performance with crew asking all audience members to remove time faces both digital and analog from view and remain in a timeless space before the performance began a poignant way to engage our minds and prepare the audience mentally for what they are to witness.

Brennan and cast did justice to Beckett, honouring his code of creative conducts. The physical story telling was full of exploration and carefully executed. The start of the production using the PACT space to its full advantage by using the foyer too as a stage, time ticking on the wall and the doors opened with the greeting of cast who suggested subtly us to enter and take our seats. This was a fantastic interlude into the space to which had been transformed to a Beckett T. Kudos for taking the risk Erica Brennan and bravo to being one who went out to create the art-in-its-state and not just art-for-fuck-sake.

Awesome running time of an hour! If you love Beckett you are in for a treat. If you don’t know who he is, you are in for a shock and if you aren’t into Beckett I suggest don’t go, or else open up your mind and grow a little culture. Growth isn’t comfortable and if nothing else Beckett’s work causes that in a person, it certainly did me when I first watched Endgame. Do yourself a favour, grow! It’s worth it, I promise. Genius is vastly misunderstood, Metafour was indeed a glorious thing to witness.

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