Friday, 7 October 2005

Small Metal Objects, Back to Back Theatre, Oct 7, 2005

Small Metal Objects by Sonia Teuben 
Back to Back Theatre
Melbourne Festival
Flinders St, Station Concourse, Melbourne,  Oct 7 to 22, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 7, 2005

Small Metal Objects is a fascinating experience. The performance combines theatre with a very public form of eavesdropping.

The venue is Flinders St, Station Concourse where the audience is seated very publicly in a bank of seating facing the peak hour crowds rushing to catch their trains.

We put on a pair of headphones, under instruction from signs held up by the Stage Manager. Two voices are heard. At first it seems we are listening to a radio play.

Two men talk about their desires and needs. Gary, (Sonia Teuben) advises Steve (Simon Laherty) about his desire to find a girlfriend.

Slowly, members of the audience notice two figures standing and talking in the distance on the concourse. The dialogue seems to match up with their body language.

We are listening to their private conversation as they stand, the only still point in the Fluid, moving crowd.

Train travellers glance at the audience and rush on. Others stare as they pass. Some stop and watch us as if we are the show and others try to discern what we are viewing. A couple of courageous ones ask us what is happening.

Some of the public on the concourse become part of the show: a woman handing out flyers, teenagers smooching, the child who delightedly runs into the audience.

Gary's phone rings. It is the voice of Alan (Jim Russell) who cautiously asks to meet Gary to buy drugs. Alan eventually appears in the crowd, a man in a business outfit. He tries to pay Gary but his deal is stymied by Gary and Steve's reticence and their unwillingness to leave the concourse to collect the goods.

Finally, Alan calls for help from his friend, Carolyn, (Genevieve Picot) a $400 per hour psychologist who resorts to abuse once she realises Steve is not going to help them buy the drugs.

The collision of fiction and reality, of actors and commuters, of theatre and train station creates a delightful mosaic of narrative. We are allowed to enter several worlds simultaneously and to muse upon the place, the people, the event and our role in it.

One final compelling moment was when the actors took a bow and the audience applauded. Suddenly, the crowd parted like the Red Sea to clear a space for what they now knew to be a performance.

Back to Back Theatre is a company comprising actors both with and without intellectual disabilities.

By Kate Herbert

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