Saturday, 15 September 2018

Alone Outside - Theatre Review

What: Alone Outside
When: 14 - 29 September 2018
Where: Studio 2, Arts House
Written by: Liz Newell
Directed by: Lyall Brooks
Composed by: Grace Ferguson
Performed by: Sharon Davis
Sharon Davis - photo by Theresa Harrison
Alone Outside is a long format monologue and is showing in Studio 2 at Arts House as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. It is the story of a country girl who leaves for the big city by continually finds herself compelled to return home. This visit is a little different from the rest. The stakes are higher and truths emerge.

Alone Outside first premiered as part of 2017 Fringe World in Perth to rave reviews. Lab Kelpie have brought it to Melbourne Fringe, and having recently seen Oil Babies I was expecting great things.

As with Oil Babies, the production elements are immaculately produced. A gleaming white geometric floor with nothing but a single old tractor tyre in the dark void of a black end stage set up. Very visually striking.

This is where the problems begin for me. Newell has written a monologue which is lyrical and literal. Through the words you can see everything from the worn front gate, to the stars in the sky, to the beer on the bar. The world Brooks has created, however, is a minimalist surreality which is slick, sleek, and completely surreal. The only connection between the two worlds is Davis.

Davis is a fabulous actor, but an hour long monologue is a tough thing for anyone to keep engaging and the truth is I was bored after the first half hour and kept looking at my watch for the rest of the time. Part of it is Davis is playing the character on a certain level on disdain. I needed to see the love and life she has for home. For example, wouldn't she love Pancake? Pancake certainly seems to love her! We just needed some glimpses to show us why she keeps coming back.

This is not all a fault of the acting or directing either. I found myself asking why is this theatre at all? It feels more like it should be a short story in a collection of short stories. Of course, this then opens the Pandora's Box of what is theatre? As a Vorticist all I can say is we believe you should choose the most appropriate form for the story and I am not convinced the stage is the most appropriate form for this story.

There are two major twists in the story, but rather than making me gasp in pleased surprise, the first one felt gratuitous to me. I love twists and surprises, but I want to be able to look back on everything I have just seen and think to myself 'Oh yes, it was all there for me to see if only I hadn't been distracted by the red herrings'. I have thought about this deeply and whilst it is true that there is nothing in the earlier part of the story to discredit, there is also nothing in the words or performance which would lead me to ever come to that conclusion on my own.

If you are one of those people who spout the mantra that actors on stage having a conversation is more interesting than fully produced shows you should go ahead and see Alone Outside. It is perfect theatre for you.

I like my theatre to be stimulating to my mind and my senses so for me Alone Outside is hard work. Having said that, it is a high quality production. There is nothing sloppy about Alone Outside. It is unfortunately rare to find productions which pay so much attention to all levels of detail but Lab Kelpie do it with all their work.

1.5 Stars

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