Monday, 24 September 2018

Melbourne Fringe: HERE – Elbow Room

Emily & Angus are HERE at Melbourne Fringe

In the beginning, there is darkness. But it’s not the beginning. It’s ten years after THERE first premiered at Melbourne Fringe and a week since I first saw it. Emily and Angus are getting the band back together, but is that a good idea?

We’re in an era of film and television revivals. Star Wars is no longer a nostalgia trip. Twin Peaks has reawakened nightmares from a quarter of a century ago. And theatre’s ephemeral nature means you can never go back, not even in a remount with the same creative team. Things have changed. Emily and Angus have changed.

Elbow Room has changed.

Our two intrepid performers are trapped inside a machine that feeds off narrative; it takes and takes and takes. Emily figures it out early on, but she’s been inside the machine longer. She recognises the signs and the theatrical trickery of THERE is turned back on to figure out where they are and where they must head next.

HERE is about nostalgia and the fear of looking back. It’s also about context and the empathy gap and how an audience perceives a performer and how we perceive ourselves. It mines the history of THERE but also alludes to other shows Elbow Room have made, like Prehistoric and We Get It.

You can feel the history, even if you weren’t there. Angus knows. Sometimes Angus has watched from the dark and he knows what he’s been missing out on.

It’s hard to critique these performances; they resonate with such truth that it’s easy to believe these questions were wrestled with in the rehearsal room as much as they are on stage. Emily and Angus are Emily and Angus. They are in complete control, even as the machine groans away, ready to take another bite.

The original Elbow Room team, including director Marcel Dorney, have found their way back together. Their latest show is absurd and funny and moving and knows nostalgia is about pain as much as joy.

Mmaybe they aren’t playing the same music they once made, but the echoes of the past can be heard clearly and they’ve forged a new work that resonates with age, wisdom, experience and a deep love of theatre.

HERE runs until September 29th. Don’t miss it. It may be another decade before they do it again.

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