Traditional theatres, found spaces and Four Larks' Undine

Four Larks' Undine

After Melbourne Theatre Company’s thrilling adaptation of Hamlet last Monday night, in their relatively new, state-of-the-art traditional theatre with as much money as you’d expect on stage outside of an imported Broadway musical, it was lovely to see Four Larks’ new show, Undine, produced in a non-traditional space – someone’s garage. And be as engaged in this intimate venue as in the Sumner earlier in the week.

Nearly all the shows I see are in traditional theatres – from the giant State Theatre to the intimate La Mama on Faraday St, but a found space like a garage or even something as odd as the Collingwood Underground Carpark, gives the piece an added layer of experience. Attic Erratic’s Christina – A Story with Music was memorable for all its elements – acting, script, music, set and score, but the depth of the space (the Carpark) also resonates in my mind. As it if were a stage that went on forever.

Four Larks’ Undine shares some visual elements with Christina, a crumbling room invaded by water while a man tells the story of a woman who has captured his imagination and is stuck in his subconcious. But while Christina’s story explored a modern day character in a story that could have happened, Undine dives into the myths of water sprites, sirens, spirits and the titular, Undine – a kind of water nymph.

Seeing a show whose production design is visually exciting, with a three-member band and two singers to create the score, all while squeezed in with patrons into (an admittedly large) garage, reminded me again how live theatre can transform a space and, if it’s working, transport the audience even if they are a little chilly or slightly uncomfortable in their seats.

While the story of a man’s obsession with a water nymph is simple (and somewhat simplistic, the nymph barely having a character of her own), the design elements and the acting from the three leads – all playing different elements of the main character, capturing his fragmented mind as well as varying aspects of his creativity – build Undine into a moving and memorable experience.

For my own work, I’m mostly drawn to traditional spaces – places with lighting rigs and bathrooms in place. But finding venues can be a tricky business, even when Melbourne has intimate venues scattered north and south of the river – and east and west of the CBD. The trick is to finding the right place for the piece you have. Getting a commitment from a space (or, The Space in Prahran) came down to the wire for us when registering for Melbourne Fringe. Finding a space for Three Women will be the deciding factor on whether we get the show up in November or early 2012.

But it’s exciting to know that theatre can spring up and hide in the most unexpected places. The play’s the thing, but you still need somewhere to put the play on.


Sally said…
I think you'd REALLY get a kick out of the Tecklenburg open-air theatre, the one that's built into the ruins of an old castle. There is a stage, and a massive lighting rig above, but then... castle! Outdoors! Trees! Birds and bats!
Keith Gow said…
Strangely, I hadn't considered the tradition of outdoor productions, which is something else Melbourne does a lot of - and happens in a lot of places around the world. But the ruins of a castle would certainly be a great place to put on a show! Great atmosphere.