An uninvited guest has arrived at this party: a blackhole. The threat of the end of the world puts a certain strained pressure on the loose, confessional deep and meaningful conversation customary at the end of all good Australian house parties. Suddenly this low-key hang has become a last opportunity to open up, right wrongs, and connect with the people around us.
Writer and performer Alayne Dick combined lyrical monologue with audience interaction, video installation, and musical interludes to explore the mixed emotions of a house party at the end of the world. As she moves through the various rooms of the party house, she ruminates on the successes and failures of her life while repeatedly bumping into the blackhole that represents the ticking clock of climate change. Director Jen O’Sullivan mixed the dry, morbid tone of Alayne’s circumstances with ironic humour and self-deprecation captured in a low-stakes production design and atmosphere.
Dick’s performance was cool and detached as she meandered through her thoughts at the party but she flickered to life when interacting directly with the audience. After revealing a troubled friendship that Alayne hoped to reconcile before the end of the world, the audience group workshopped an opening text message while being invited to send out a line of communication to someone who’d fallen out of our lives, as well. Later, a 2000s party throw-back, a Bop It was passed around, symbolising passing around a bong as a signal that the evening was winding down into the reflective mode. Throughout the performance, Dick maintained an aloofness that juxtaposed her character’s vulnerability and struck a complex tone that matched the cynical representation of climate change and the irreversible damage humans have done to the earth as a needy blackhole crashing a house party.
While the production and O’Sullivan’s direction strived for a laidback approach, some elements of the production design came across as overly clumsy or unconsidered. Aaron Pyke’s lighting design seemed to suffer from the staging within the Seymour Centre’s Sound Lounge as the multiple colourful lights surrounding Dick turned on and off apparently without rhyme or reason while her close audience-work required her to step off the small stage and out of any kind of lighting. This lent the production an air of amateurishness that amplified deliberate choices of conversational delivery and mundane setting and detracted from more polished elements like the video design and live music performance.
There has been a plethora of climate change theatre on Sydney stages in recent years with much more to come as artists attempt to express or translate the crisis for audiences. Other performances from the Sydney Fringe Festival like Not Today and Alone grabbled with solutions or imagined possible futures. But Deep and Meaningful‘s specifically pessimistic outlook with an impending, inescapable ending as combined with a millennial nostalgia for house parties and DnMs that punctuated our youths, when the reality of climate change was still obscure, presented a particularly painful position where longing for a past will not save you.
Deep and Meaningful ran at the Seymour Centre from September 13th – 17th as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival
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