Imagine you’ve been binge-watching a television show during lockdown and suddenly the characters turn and address you. The newest interactive theatre project from writer and director Laurence Rosier Staines puts the audience on show for a brief lick of the action behind (and in front of) a theatre production.
The performance of this highly original production began in an alley way in Potts Point where Melita Antoni greeted audience members and mystified with off-the-wall questions. Designed to be viewed one-by-one, the production was structured in three rooms with guides (Martelle Hammer and Lisa Walker) to lead the audience through their story. It was like a game of Clue come to life in an escape room format as characters revealed vital information before whisking you onwards into the story. Firstly, the inquisitive Rosalie (Sarah Greenwood or Harriet Gordon-Anderson) set the scene in her red velvet sitting room, then you’re sucked into her favourite soap opera with Kit (Rob Johnson or Brenden Hooke), Valerie (Stephanie King), and Payne (Harriet Hope Streeter).
Such an interactive production with a large element of audience interaction leaves a show vulnerable to unwilling or hesitant participants which can quickly derail a narrative. Rosier Staines accounted for this with another audience member feeding lines to the “acting” one but this structure is still going to appeal more to audience members with a penchant for performance already. That being said, the performers did remarkably well to construct an atmosphere that supported the bumbling audience members, as well; leading them along when necessary and keeping the story’s momentum up.
Despite the ominous title, You Can Have It All ran like a bit of fun, allowing theatre fans to get a taste for the stage or a peak behind the curtain. The main let down was the length of the show; audience members could be in and out in 20 minutes. While there is a place for micro-dose theatre, one like this, with a script heavy in inter-character relationships and backstory, is perhaps setting a higher-than-necessary challenge. In the first room with Rosalie, the audience member is given very little time to orientate themselves before they’re in the thick of it. With more time with the characters and the story, there would be more to impact upon the audience, more to hold on to once they’ve stepped back into the alley.
Otherwise, the production was precise, professional, and very promising of a larger project that can push the boundaries of audience participation even further.
You Can Have It All ran in Potts Point from November 25th – December 10th
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