If there is any reason why open access festivals like the Fringe and independent companies and venues need as much support as we can muster, it is the Apocalypse Bear Trilogy.
Stuck Pigs Squealing have become one of independent Melbourne’s favourite companies and have worked to be presentd by our biggest professional company and earn their much-deserved place in our International Arts Festival.
Lally Katz’s Apocalypse Bear emerged from the woods as a commission for White Whale’s 2007 Melburnalia. The short piece started as a tale about living in far Kew and the congenial and terrifying bear instantly became one of my favourite bears (alongside Pooh, Paddington, the sneezing baby panda on YouTube and friends of mine who drink at the Laird).
Katz is also on my list of bloody-amazing-writers-who-every-other-writer-needs-to-see. The trilogy (The Fag of Zagreb, Back to the Cafeteria and At Last) is about instincts and emotion and the dark, dangerous woods that are as close as one tram stop away, and is so well written that you can’t see the skill for the words. Katz’s knows that people never say what they mean and creates world of subtext so powerful and raw that a conversation about putting the bins out is as menacing and moving as theatre can be.
It’s not just the writing, the design team of Mel Page (set and costume), Richard Vabre (lighting) and Jethro Woodward (sound) bring this script into the theatre and with co-directors (and performers) Luke Mullins and Brian Lipson, they build tension so gently that we’re only aware of it when it’s released and we realise we’ve been holding our breath.
Mullins and Katherine Tonkin (who were astonishing SPQ’s The Eisteddfod) grasp Katz’s writing like it comes from their hearts. It would be so easy to miss the darkness or the hope that is hidden in Lally’s strange world, but they capture every nuance and never let Sonia or Jeremy act like anything isn’t exactly how it should be. And, for the wonderful characters Lipson has brought us, he was born to be The Apocalypse Bear.
Reviewing is nothing but subjective opinion, but in mine, The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy is best piece of theatre I’ve seen this year.