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John Gavin intrigues, astounds and leaves you dizzy

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John Gavin
on Thursday 19 April 2012
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John Gavin at the Blue Room, Perth. Image by Matt Scurfield

John Gavin at the Blue Room, Perth. Image by Matt Scurfield

In what can be described as nothing less than eye-opening theatre, Nick Candy’s John Gavin  spirals through controlled chaos in all directions across the stage, fervently yet gracefully.

Attending a performance at the Blue Room Theatre always promises to offer a fresh experience, and it hasn’t failed yet as Nick Candy and Natural Wings present the world premier of this historical and highly stylised play.

In 1844, John Gavin was the first European convicted and hanged in the Swan River Colony for the alleged murder of George Pollard. It’s not the crime but the injustice of the punishment that echoes in every corner of the performance, because John was only fifteen at the time. Racing between past and present, the story literally leaps into the air to shower down questions and doubts on the audience. Based on historical research, this signpost Western Australian tale still commands a powerful empathy today.

The atmosphere is one of crowding a very small space with three very energetic people. Nick Candy, Dawn Pascoe and Steve Finnigan each exhibit an enormous amount of skill in their aerial acrobatics, amazing and terrifying their audience. The small, blackened room serving as the entire set, minimal use of props, and Leyla Pizzino’s subtle costume design under her label Chaka, allow the actors as much space as possible and prevent any distractions detracting from their performance.

Movement on the whole is choreographed to be sometimes death-defying and sometimes enormously comical, but both are successfully directed to give the desired effect for that moment. Nick and Dawn provide a door from modern day into the past, fluidly shifting between multiple characters and adjusting their accents astonishingly, while Steven Finnigan portrays the young accused, John Gavin. Although each brings their own energy to the space, it’s as an ensemble that their skills are truly highlighted.

"Comic moments are punctuated by unsettling ones, making the experience not unlike an emotional roller coaster"

Joe Lui’s sound and lighting design is employed predominantly in physical scenes, assaulting the senses suitably. With the performance beginning in eerie darkness accompanied by execution drums and ending much the same way, the sound and lighting design helps to emphasise the play’s cyclical nature. Though the play appears to straddle two trains of thought, serious dialogue interjected with circus-like routines, the combination manages generally to harmonise quite well. Comic moments are punctuated by unsettling ones, making the experience not unlike an emotional roller coaster.

Proof that you don’t need wings to fly; the aerial stunts involved in Nick Candy’s John Gavin are examples of stunning and engaging physical theatre. Outstandingly directed and executed, this bizarre play unravels in the air and plummets relentlessly towards an open conclusion. Whether it’s the throat-in-the-mouth stunts, the frequent role changes or the historical comment, the play intrigues, astounds and leaves you dizzy.

Tuesday 17 April – Saturday 5 May 2012 (excludes Mondays and Sundays) 

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Courtney J. has written 37 articles on AussieTheatre
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