It’s the time of year when Sydney experiences what is possibly its most exciting and experimental outpouring of theatre; a month-long flood of new work, old work, old work made new, and everything in-between. It’s September. It’s spectacular. It’s Sydney Fringe.
Last night I saw two of Montague Basement’s fringe offerings for 2016 – Tammy & Kite and Metamorphoses.
Tammy & Kite exists in “a space between real life and the imaginary”. That is to say, the story plays out from the perspective of young Kite, whose child-mind is given total agency and authenticity. Without falling to gimmicks or tropes actress Caitlin West embodies the juvenility of Kite; her enthusiasm and innocence, and her way of understanding the world. Though she stands as tall as older sister Tammy, West never feels out of place; nor does Hannah Cox, whose turn as Tammy reveals the struggling fluctuation between childhood and adolescence. Cox displays great versatility as a performer, morphing between sibling, teacher, fractured teen, and puppeteer.
The messy and honest design of the set, Philip the Duck, and a larger puppet I’ll leave untitled, all contributed to the idea of the child’s mind playing out on stage. The aim was not to achieve precise realism; it was to achieve the realism of a child, which has indefinite lines and a great capacity for creation. In this, Cox and West have found great success.
Sound is almost another player itself in Tammy & Kite; a compelling and telling composition by designers Josephine Gibson and Alexis Weaver, which both accompanies and carries the actors throughout the story. With further aid by Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s lighting, Tammy & Kite effectively utilises a range of theatrical elements to engage audiences in a different reality.
For a relatively short show, Tammy & Kite offers it audience a great deal. Humour, free laughter, an awoken empathy, and questions: how much can a child really know? And what can their understanding reveal to you?
I don’t think audiences will be prepared for the small, simple, heartbreaking truth at the climax of the piece – but I think that’s the point. We’re never prepared, not really. Because somewhere inside of us all, whether we realise it or not – we’re still just children. Tammy & Kite reminds us of this with a powerful and beautiful generosity.
Metamorphoses presents a very different experience of theatre, no less valuable. An attempt to consolidate and present a range of myths, legends, and stories from Ovid’s epic poem of the same title, Metamorphoses is honest in its struggle, and more successful for it. Actors and creators Lulu Howes and Saro Lusty-Cavallari, and creator Imogen Gardam, made no effort to hide their devising process; rather, they have incorporated it into their work with great humour and sincerity. From the song of Book IX to Howes breakdown in the telling of Nisos’ purple hair, both performers invited the audience into their experiences – a fresh and inspiring approach to theatre.
Whilst largely a light-hearted and laughter-inducing work, Metamorphoses also has its darker moments: an alternate view of the myth of Acteon; a challenge of ancient representations of gender. These sequences give pause to the laughter and reveal that behind the often wild and humorous ancient stories, there is often great tragedy. That quality speaks to modern audiences as much as it ever did.
Metamorphoses makes excellent use of video and sound – full credit to Christian Byers, whose fast-paced visual stories of Troy and Rome are a real highlight of the play. Mention must also be made of Pierce Wilcox, whose dramaturgy has enriched the work with historical/mythological detail.
Metamorphoses is marked by boldness in its creation and realisation. It provides a wonderfully contrasting night of theatre after Tammy & Kite. You go home having felt a little bit of everything.
Tammy & Kite and Metamorphoses are playing at Erskineville Town Hall as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival from 13 – 17 September. Click here for tickets.