Monday, May 23, 2011

No Place Like Review

No Place Like.
Presented by Union House Theatre
Written by Chris Summers
Directed by Tom Guttereidge
Showing this week: ticket info


Dorothy in her sparkly red shoes would be slightly bewildered if she ended up in the Oz of Chris Summers’ imagination. No Place Like imagines a world where our very homes are the breeding ground for the dangers that our politicians insist haunt our ‘unsafe’ streets. From this “toxic scenario of the present” there is a post-apocalyptic extension to a Melbourne nineteen years from now where the entire state is now ruled by the man who initiated the horror of the first act. There is confronting and open violence in this work, but also insidious and creeping terror of inevitability: of how the today effects the tomorrow. Union House Theatre is to be commended for this commission and for producing a strident, strong and daring piece of theatre.

The Guild Theatre was completely transformed for this production with the type of set that draws the audience right into the action. It was immense in size, remarkably adaptable and when the insides were ripped out of the world it responded in kind. Quite simply the set designed by Tanja Beer deserves congratulations. It demonstrated creative vision, determination (to squeeze the design into the space) and worked tightly with the script to envelope the audience in the play. Who needs 3D cinema when you can be so involved with live theatre?

Script-wise No Place Like is dynamic. It moves through the action and scenarios with a confidence and brashness that reflects the harshness of the content. At times though it pulls back and is gentle, an example of this is the frequent drifting into song throughout the play. This gives a reflective flavour at times. As Melbourne emerges from chaos and into an accompanying schlock/horror aesthetic on the stage it is testament to the writing that this ‘New World’ still remains a plausible future of the “now. yes right now.” Structurally the play is impressive. It is always a pleasure to observe the links and connections within a work and the structure offered a satisfying narrative. On balance Act 1 was perhaps a little longer than it needed to be but perhaps that was just a response to wanting to inhabit the fantastical future Melbourne for longer. The coda Act 3 was a great metatheatrical conclusion to the work.

This play is packed with well performed and complex characters. They are inherently human and it is the extension of the best/worst elements of humanity that remain in the second act. The power hungry and ruthlessly ambitious PA is reduced to a hideous caricature, worshipping her new master as a Prophet. The entire ensemble was fabulous and they showed great depth in moving their characters through time. All elements of the production team of this work also need to be acknowledged for producing such a professional show.

The politics of No Place Like are societal and personal but they are also devastatingly interconnected. The parents in this story are unwittingly careless of their future. The mother who because she cannot face the past, cannot face a future; and the politician with a mandate for safety who presides over a home that festers with danger as his eye is elsewhere. Lives are destroyed and only those who can escape from home and create their own home survive. Integrity is an interesting concept when people are constantly lying to themselves and others. In a world where spin is how to win, it comes as little surprise that Finn who does not speak; who can not speak, retains her integrity amongst the chaos.

Powerful theatre has an important place in contemporary culture, even more so when the subject matter involves an extension into a future reality. No Place Like might not be our future but it should hopefully make us sit up, take notice and ultimately take action to ensure that it is not and will never be our home.

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