This small group of 21 to 25 year old drama/dance/music graduates has come up with a concept for a show that I would have formerly dismissed as "wanky", but I have fallen for, head over heels. I've been boring mates stupid about how good it is. Now it's your turn.
In a nation where popular culture doesn't distinguish between talent and celebrity, and lead roles are given out as prizes on panel shows, it's fantastic to find young people who still believe in what it's all about; good ideas, ability, hard work and yes, talent. Smoke Yourself Slim have a lot of it, and this little black duck is very proud to be doing their lighting and helping out with stage management. After being out of theatre for a few years, I have now returned home.
It's impossible to describe this show in a way that does it justice. It's not a Play, or a Musical, or Performance Art in any of themselves. The company's "antitheatre" background steers it away from putting things into boxes, under rules and boundaries, and separation between performers and audience. See what I mean about "wanky"? It's not at all.
The text is partly written by the director (Naia Headland-Vanni) and by the very people speaking (developed by the director - who can also be credited with the original idea). Sometimes they interact, and sometimes they float about concurrently, to very well chosen music. It's highly emotional, from extremely funny to pit-of-the-stomach emptiness, and sometimes, members of the cast just break down crying. From my position next to the audience, I can sometimes hear people in the audience openly sobbing. Some nights, it's not really sad at all.
Currently, the show can take between 65 and 75 minutes to run, depending on what floats them along on any given night. Audience involvement is a very big part of the show, and I have never seen an audience more willing to participate, due to the comfort level this clever troupe gives them from the start. No one has to leave their seat. the show is bound to vary, and could seriously crash were it not for the strong, brave actors
Thursday night, out of the blue, managed to include the best scene I have ever seen on any stage, in my life, and I have seen the inside of a few theatres! The audience were riveted and silent at the end, the only sound came from those who were weeping, then they exploded in applause, bringing the exhausted actors back for a second bow, and then the room rang for half an hour with incessant chatter. No one wanted to leave. One girl; the youngest actor; had hit a new level and was visibly shaken. She said to me "F* k! It's scary to believe we can have this much power! I felt sorry for the audience."
I've been really affected by this show (can you tell?) and some readers may just assume that I am biased, being on the inside, but it's important to remember that I didn't have anything to do with putting this together. It was finished and ready by the time I arrived.