As part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, audience members up for an adventure, typed “257b Macarthur Ave, Northshore Hamilton” into their GPS and ended up in a car park beside “The Shed”, just off the Brisbane River.
The Shed was a huge well-lit structure with an even brighter, and inviting, pop-up bar next door. When it was time, the audience was led through the wire gates of the car park to a makeshift open-air theatre with a panoramic view of seven little boxes, each housing one of seven cast members (or six and a half, according to the program).
Created by Alex Podger and Jenna Koda, Little Boxes is a series of short vignettes, taken in turns, by the larger-than-life apartment occupants. Using mostly physical comedy and a little circus, accompanied by the occasional grunt, laugh, scream, sigh or cry, the eccentric characters play out their isolated lives until one of the occupant’s TVs explodes. This one seemingly insignificant event causes a chain reaction among the residents.
Water was a constant theme, with characters drinking, splashing, dunking their heads, and being sprayed. On a very cool winter’s night I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the actors who really did suffer for their art.
Each character is richly drawn, with bold choices and total commitment by the actors. Especially enjoyable was the under-stated, tragi-comedy of the man with a peculiar attachment to his cleaning appliances; he compulsively washed his underwear every night (played by Tom Stewart). Kristian Santic’s strong man with a drug addiction was engaging and so was Patrick Dwyer’s drag queen who treated us to a very polished performance of ‘Down Town’.
The audience sit in the middle of this panoramic doll’s house, which for the most part works well. The exception is the vignette of the congenial twins, played by Mercedes Porter and Cassandra Kowitz. Many audience members had to stand to see the action, especially when they were sitting on the couch.
The other members filling out the ensemble were Laura Trenerry, an hysterical woman addicted to her TV, and Belinda Raisin, a tightly wound housewife.
Lighting (Ben Hughes) was used to provide focus from one vignette to the next, and live music by the multi-instrumentalist/composer Richard Grantham was used to provide atmosphere and commentary on the action. A nice touch would have been to dress up his little box with as much detail as those of the other residents
As Little Boxes is an outdoor performance, a jacket and scarf is highly recommended. It is also a good idea to check their facebook page for any wet weather arrangements..
Little Boxes runs for seventy-five minutes (no interval) until May 17.