When was the last time you cried?
What are you anxious about?
Have you ever been divorced?
Is it easier to give love or receive love?
What do you think of the works of Leonardo di Vinci?
Of Leonardo di Caprio?
Tits or arse?
Theatre collective Pony Cam ask a lot of questions in Anything You Can Do, playing in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it season at Chalice Hall in Northcote. It’s a remount of a production they debuted at Darebin FUSE Festival last March and it’s got a lot of things on its mind.
Pony Cam is five theatre makers from all over Australia who are gaining a reputation for works that challenge what theatre means: subverting form, playing in unexpected spaces, inviting the audience to receive their work in new and interesting ways.
For Anything You Can Do, the collective – who are in the 20s and 30s – have worked together with performers in their 50s, 60s and 70s to ask and answer questions about love, grief, time and sex.
When the audience enters Chalice Hall, they are offered a drink and then after finding a seat, it’s suggested we consider the gallery of questions along one wall. The one-liners stretch from the profound to the ridiculous and back again.
Once seated, we’re given the most basic of introductions to the show – it will be like other shows, with scenes and stuff. And that’s about where this show’s similarities with other theatre ends. There is performance, of a sort. Theatrical lighting. Some set pieces. Some costume changes. But all combined in a way that feels fresh, different and even dangerous.
A “young” and an “old” person take turns answering questions about their lives. It’s random, it seems. Off-the-cuff. Improvised. Questions that evoke joke responses or heart-rending stories. You just never know what these performers will let out after they read the next card on the pile.
Soon it’s clear that age can change the weight of a question. Queries about fathers play differently when one of the young performers has his dad in the audience (“he never let me watch The Simpsons”) and one of the older actors’ father is long since gone – and he doesn’t miss him.
It’s not just Q&A throughout, though even when we start to witness long-form stories, monologues and scenes, the impetus is always a question about age and when things start to change. How does life slip by and how can we regain our sense of fun as we get older?
An extended sequence at a funeral, populated by a wide-variety of grieving relatives, is heightened and hilarious on purpose. A touching story from an old man about his younger days in Paris becomes a debauched performance that requires a tarp, soap bottles and Twisties. So many Twisties! As the ads always said, life’s pretty straight without them.
The thing about a show like this is that you never know what you’re going to get next – and it’s completely joyous and thrilling because of that. Pony Cam knows that chaos can cause comedy and drama and Anything You Can Do has a heady mix of both.
The eighty-minute show felt a little long, but to be fair on the cast and crew, it was stiflingly hot in Chalice Hall last night (and all over Melbourne), so I might have felt the length more than I would have otherwise. Thanks to the Pony Cam performer who kept spraying the audience with water to cool us down; another unexpected element that made us feel like we were in safe hands.
Anything You Can Do is thoughtful and wild, probing and comical, moving and an assault to the senses. Pony Cam’s work is like nothing else on Melbourne’s stages right now – and that’s good for young and old!
Anything You Can Do opened last night and closes tomorrow night. Get along or keep an eye out for future Pony Cam shows.
- Keith Gow, Theatre First
Photos by Wild Hardt