Tiny Universe | Milk Crate Theatre & Shopfront Arts Co-Op

Image by Joshua Morris / David Molloy

What do you think about when you’re alone? Is it the same thing other people think about? Tiny Universe opens up small, private moments to explore the wonderful internal worlds of eight characters and to reflect on the similar and different ways we navigate the outer world.

A large vertical grid like Celebrity Squares housed each of the actors in a little room reflecting their personalities and interests. The lighting design by Liam O’Keefe was colourful and hypnotic as it cycled through the rainbow, lighting each of the rooms in varied sequences and patterns. James Peter Brown’s composition and sound design were additionally atmospheric like the background music used in reality television to heighten feelings of anger and elation. The effect of the design of Tiny Universe was counter-intuitive for the way the actors remained exposed completely to the audience but at an unnatural distance, with an artificial facade of neon lights and performativity.

This devised work, a collaboration between Milk Crate Theatre and Shopfront Arts Co-Op, was made up of monologues exploring each of the characters’ inner worlds, their best memories, their concerns. One finds solace in video games (Harrison Bishop), another loves his time at the gym (Steve Konstantopoulos), and another is deep in the world of hermit crab racing (Lucy Watson). Some characters were more fully realised than others but each offers a unique voice to the chorus of these experiences.

The ensemble’s performances were genuine and often delightful in their candour. Lana Filies’s character stood out for her quippy one-liners about pop culture while Desmond Edwards captured attention with his experience as a crab person. Lily Hayman and Matthias Nudl’s characters both used strong allusion to past experiences and memories to explore themes of regret and hope and Nick Vagne’s character had interesting musings on sensation and true feeling.

Directors Margot Politis and Natalie Rose focused on the shared threads between each monologue, overlapping ideas or using association to link each character together. While the central thrust of the project was about finding similarities between people, what worked about Tiny Universe was witnessing the great variety of the characters and their real or imagined spaces. In their own time they could share their struggles and also their great joys, many of which brought laughter from the audience in recognition or pleasant surprise.

In the production’s structure of divided cells and fragmented monologues, the overall experience was somewhere between hyper-stylised reality television and more modest, grass roots storytelling. The emotional resonances of this project could have benefited from leaning more heavily in either direction. As it stood, the glimpses of these characters were so fleeting and insular, they failed to impress as a substantial narrative.

For many people, the inside of our minds are the safest and most comfortable part of our lives. Tiny Universe cracks the lid a little bit to show off the beauty of our inner selves and to revel in our uniqueness.

Tiny Universe is running at PACT Centre for Emerging Artists from May 20th – 29th

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