Saturday, 11 October 2014

Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday, Oct 11, 2014 ***1/2

Created by Roslyn Oades & Collaborators, Malthouse Theatre
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse; Oct 9 to 26, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sat Oct 11, 2014.
Stars: ***1/2
Full review also  published in Herald Sun online on Monday Oct 13, 2014 and later in print. KH

  L-R Diana Perini, Haiha Le, Jim Daly, Roger Oakley,Evelyn Krape: Pic Jeff Busby

The personal stories and foibles of real people are eminently more interesting than many fictional characters.

Director, Roslyn Oades, clearly believes this because her audio-script for Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday exclusively uses her interviews with real people who are over 80 and living in aged care, and 17 or 18 year-olds in high school.

This is Verbatim Theatre, which means that the production uses recordings of actual words spoken by real people in their daily lives and the result provides an insight into the worlds of the young and old interview subjects.

What makes this different from other Verbatim Theatre pieces is that the actors, who wear headphones, listen to and replicate the voices of their characters simultaneously, a method that heightens the immediacy and truth of the dialogue.

None of the six performers are the same age as the interviewees but much of the humour arises from Oades casting the three older actors (Evelyn Krape, Jim Daly, Roger Oakley) as teens and the three younger ones (Haiha Le, Diana Perini, Matthew Connell) as oldies.

What we hear and see is a collision of realities, a juxtaposition of the 18 year-olds’ ebullient, puppy-like youthfulness against the 80 year-olds’ lack of energy and more sedentary, introspective lives.

The kids are loud, over-confident and tribal while the elderly are quieter, warmer, more self-deprecating, although one common behaviour is that both groups laugh a lot.

The aged look to the past, replaying their memories and viewing their lives with acceptance and resignation, while the kids look into the future with hope, creating visions of their yet-to-be lives.

The highlights include Daly’s touching 80th birthday speech, Krape’s frenetic, boyfriend-obsessed 18 year-old, Oakley’s inarticulate boy who likes guns, Le’s determined Chinese woman, and Perini’s cheerfully assertive, Italian woman.

But the most beautifully poignant story is told by Connell as the elderly man who struggles to tell his painful story about caring for his wife who has dementia.

The naturalism extends to the set design (Christina Hayes) that looks just like a community hall decorated for an 80th birthday party, with an upright piano in a corner, a hot water urn bubbling in the background, tea cups laid out on a table and a cake with plenty of candles.

There are some charming and hilarious scenes in this show although the structure is not quite coherent or cohesive and needs some rejigging to clarify the links between the two age groups and to counterpoint their differences more effectively.

By Kate Herbert

 L-R Mathew Connell, Diana Perini, Haiha Le, Jim Daly; Pic Jeff Busby
L-R Haiha Le, Evelyn Krape, Diana Perini; Pic Jeff Busby

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