Sunday 30 September 2018

Project Exiles - Theatre Review

What: Project Exiles - The Return Of A Man Called Ulysses
When: 28 - 30 September 2018
Where: MC Showrooms
Written by: Jaime Dorner
Performed by: Georgina Bright, Reuben Daamen, Jaime Dorner, Austen Keating, Pranav Mahesh, Lily Thomson, Roxana Paun Trifan, and Savanna Wegman,
Roxana Puan Trifan, Reuben Daamen, Austen Keating, Savanna Wegman, Lily Thomson and PranavMahesh
Project Exiles: The Return Of A Man Called Ulysses is the inaugural production of Praxi Theatre and is one of the shows rounding out the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Festivals. It is only on for 3 nights at the MC Showrooms in Prahran so blink and you'll miss it which is a huge shame.

Project Exiles: The Return Of A Man Called Ulysses is a play written by Chilean playwright and director Jaime Dorner. A piece of fan fiction riffing off the Odyssey of Homer (Ulysses is the Roman name for the Greek hero Odysseus) Dorner explores many concepts of distance and isolation. Dorner focuses his work on the experience of men in the world and he has captured the eternal perplexity men are put under and put themselves under in an incisive way.

Specifically, Project Exiles focuses on the point when Calypso is forced to release Ulysses and allow him to complete his journey back to his home, his wife, and his son. It is not a real journey this Ulysses (Dorner) is going on however and his son Telemachus (Daamen, Keating, and Mahesh) must go on one as well.

Project Exiles is a psychological journey and to keep the show working in our heads more so than our hearts some characters are played by multiple actors and some actors play multiple roles. This show is a Brechtian feast.

The Praxi team have created an empty landscape and at the farthest distance on each side sit four of the eight performers creating the greatest gulf between to signify the distance the characters must travel. As each scene takes place the actors required float in the centre space desperately trying to connect but somehow always failing to fall just short.

Ulysses begins his journey to be reunited with Penelope (Trifan) and Telemachus but is worried he won't be recognised. Telemachus is in search of his manhood and his father. Three mantras litter the play, creating stumbling blocks for both men as they make their way in the world: "Every man has his war to fight"; "Every man needs a father"; and, "A man must do what he has to do".

Whilst Ulysses' journey is intriguing it is one we all know well. What is intriguing in this script is his insistence on returning to Patria, not Ithica. Dorner is clearly indicating where he is going with this intriguing investigation of masculinity in society and in the family.

The journey of Telemachus is the real point and revelation of the show. Suicide rates for young men are ridiculously high and as a society we struggle to understanding why this is happening. The journey Telemachus undertakes gives great insight. Growing up without his father, trying to explain his masturbation to his mother, experiencing young love and desire, and then trying to rationalise his love and hate for his father Telemachus shows us how complicated this world can be.

Everyone in the world of Project Exiles is an exile. The gods have made Ulysses and Exile, Penelope is exiled from Telemachus because she is not his father, Telemachus is exiled from Ulysses because of the Trojan War. Even Calypso is in exile on her island and Ginny (Thomson, Wegman, and Bright), the homeless young woman Telemachus meets, is exiled from her family. All of them are trying to find their way back home, back to safety, back to love.

All of the performances are fantastic in Project Exiles: The Return Of A Man Called Ulysses. The theatrical tropes are fairly tried and true. Whilst nothing in this production is particularly unique, it is one of the most polished and perfect performances I have attended in a very long time. This ensemble understand the idea of doing simple things extraordinarily well.

I really loved Project Exiles: The Return Of A Man Called Ulysses. From what I can tell by reviews of his first production of the play in 2007, Dorner is working with a team now who have allowed the work to move beyond the first iterations weaknesses so the audience can enjoy the psycho-drama unfolding in front of our eyes and deeply ponder the questions and implications which arise.

4.5 stars

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