The Well was sold out, which is awesome for everyone involved, but a shame for those who missed out.
Playwright and director Robert Reid (The Joy of Text, On the production of monsters) has been working with Monash university performing arts students for three years. Being in a uni, and having the support of MUST (Monash Uni Student Theatre), gave him and his performers an opportunity that most professional companies can’t offer: significant time to workshop, explore, rehearse and work together to create something that truly reflects who they are and how they create.
The Well began as a 2006 apocalyptic story that Reid wasn’t satisfied with, so he used it as the starting point to develop something new. Time with a cast has let him cut and polish to find the stories hidden in the words. The text is evocative and beautiful with a sense of humour that sneaks up until it’s hard to remember when it didn’t feel so funny – but it’s the process and performance that makes it so intriguing.
In the black box of La Mama, there are no chairs and the audience drift. At first it’s hard to differentiate audience from performers, especially as some audience members are happy to join in. There’s no intimidating audience participation, but it’s a story told by a group of 17, so it’s easy to join the group and feel personally involved in the story. The audience are gently moved to different watching spaces as the storytelling unfolds and by using all of the space, the La Mama box feels as vast as the tale.
At first, it’s also difficult to find a narrative among the images of magnificent stars, ancient gods and confusion. But as it becomes clear that the earth has been flung off its axis, there are time travel paradoxes and government conspiracies and aliens to face, but it’s the intimacy of individual stories that bring the story to life. Some stories easier to follow than others, but each is complete enough that if you only follow one, that’s enough. Or there’s the option to just stick with the dude in the pink panther suit.
Time, trust and the freedom to experiment and question creates art that resonates. It’s not always possible, but this piece of barely-funded student theatre is intimate, fascinating and engaging and would never be created in a commercial professional setting.