Asking an audience to give you their attention for two and half hours is pretty risky behaviour but from what I’ve seen of the Danger Ensemble, they have garnered respect from the local industry for their risk taking. Their new production, Children of War (now playing at La Boite), subjects audiences to an epic and sometimes confusing romp, proving that risk doesn’t always pay off.
The concept of Children of War is full of potential; the re-telling of the Trojan war with-in the frame of a modern day group of teenagers coming to grips with the world they will inherit, but the ‘conflicts’ that writer Chris Beckey attempts to cover seem too many to have any real depth or consideration. Two side narratives straight from the popular press provide clutter to the main plot, with a teenage bully victim turned gunman and a girl imprisoned in a basement by her rapist step-father. Although vaguely representing stories of their characters’ original Greek tragedy, the superficial parallel story-lines interspersed throughout make it hard for an audience to empathise with, however further development here may just detract further from the main plot.
As you’d expect from The Danger Ensemble and Steven Mitchell Wright, the production values are of a fairly high standard, and the use of media is ‘edgy’ and novel. The set is atmospheric and well designed and there is the potential for some powerful messages with-in the story for example, the translation of Iphigenia – who was willingly sacrificed to the Gods by her father – to a suicide bomber was an intriguing choice and her journey to embody this modern day martyr could have been further developed. The actors from the Vanguard Youth Theatre, plagued by stagey monologues, performed well regardless, and were quite entertaining but the high points of the production were unfortunately diffused by the sheer length of the thing.
The second production I’ve seen by The Danger Ensemble has left me a little disappointed. It appears that the Ensemble are missing a vital team member – that trusted but ruthless editor that refines ideas to a polished finish. Without that extra pruning, the Danger Ensemble’s new risk could perhaps be the loss of audience enthusiasm. There isn’t anything wrong with exploration and edginess as a modus operandi, but with any lab experiment, not all elements turn out quite like you plan, and it’s the wisdom and courage to let go of what is not working that leads to the pathway of success. With a little further development, and a little de-cluttering, The Danger Ensemble has the potential to stage some very exciting productions that are truly Bunsen burner bright, that not only a sympathetic industry audience can ‘get’, but the general public can truly enjoy.
Showing at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre until November 14, Children of War is the final production in the La Boite Indie Series. Tickets are reasonable at $20.