Sometimes theatre can make you forget where you are, who you are with and why you are even there. Sometimes it’s immersive and subtle and you’re a voyeur. Sometimes it’s dark, mysterious, puzzling and scary.
And sometimes it’s one guy playing twenty-five characters, many of which are animals, inanimate objects or days of the week, and he’s telling you a story about light, sound waves, aliens, string theory, space, the universe, time, a boy, a girl and a wall.
Our narrator (Lucas Stibbard) doesn’t want you to confuse him with male protagonist Thom or think too hard about him as female protagonist Alethea. And yet, when he’s being them, when he’s telling their stories, you can forget, just for a moment, it’s one actor playing all the parts.
And yet, the show is built around watching the pieces of stage craft work. It’s a full energy performance with a chalkboard set, a chair, an overhead projector, a set of handlebars and some chalk. It’s music and sound effects from just offstage – and yet even that wall is broken down when the musician makes a one-off comment on the narrative.
The show is about breaking down walls – between Thom and Alethea, but also between performer and audience. Stibbard sets up the show – it’s not a love story, it’s a story about love – and he invites us on the journey. Part lecture, but hilarious. Part comedy, but moving. Part drama, but about perverted aliens and evil birds and 24-hour improvisational theatre.
There were occasional moments of direct audience interaction, but also moments of Stibbard having to improvise. This shows an actor in control and comfortable in the material. A quick “bless you” to a girl who sneezed. And a fun “pretend this isn’t happening” dance when his lapel mic dislodged itself from his tie.
Presented as part of Melbourne Theatre Company’s Studio and Education seasons, nearly eighty percent on the audience on Thursday night was school groups. I was so thrilled to be seeing this show with teenagers – who laughed uproariously at Stibbard’s performance and the recurrent swear words and some of the lewd comedy.
I think it’s perfectly pitched at an older teen audience, but could be appreciated by anyone. On one side of me was a teenager, on the other was a woman in her eighties. They both loved moments and squirmed at others; the poor girl next to me had come with her dad and while she seemed to be okay with him being there for most of the show, the moment of “sock puppet fellatio” seemed to make her a little uncomfortable. The rest of the audience was in hysterics.
The Escapists, a theatre group from Brisbane, should be highly commended for putting together such a thrilling, enjoyable, delightful, hilarious and tightly written and directed show. MTC should be highly commended for bringing this show to Melbourne and exposing it to audiences of all ages.
Please go to see this show. It’s rare to find as show I feel like I could recommend to everyone. Boy Girl Wall is it.