Having never heard of British playwright Bryony Lavery’s 2002 performance Illyria I had little idea of what I was in for. What I saw was a poetic blend of movement and captivating storytelling presented by a powerful ensemble. The Hayman Theatre Company has every reason to be proud of this stunning version of Lavery’s play.
Maria, an Australian journalist, is flown to a fictional war-torn country called Illyria to report of the situation. She witnesses horrific suffering. The shocking war themes are dealt with in a daring manner by director Teresa Izzard and the performers through storytelling and movement.
This poignant performance showcases both professional performers and budding Curtin University Performance Studies students. Their ensemble movement sequences are phenomenal; they don’t once miss a beat. They generate a fluid, enthralling roller coaster that propels the performance from its gripping beginning to its moving end. Movement also proves to have a practical function; props littering the stage are cleared within minutes by the cast in what can only be described as a visual whirlwind.
[pull_left]The Hayman Theatre Company has every reason to be proud of this stunning version of Lavery’s play[/pull_left]Each performer demonstrates talent and unwavering dedication to the performance, whether in a solo role, or as a group. Róisín Bevan and Georgia Knox are the two that truly stand out; Bevan is completely believable as the protagonist Maria, whilst Knox is the vivacious and unrelenting as Marie-Thérèse. Theirs is near-perfect storytelling delivered in a natural, effortless manner.
Knox, together with Holly Dodd and Savannah Wood, leads a trio of peasants who act as comic relief. The quartet of soldiers (Sean Guastavino, Zoe Street, Dylan Searle and Peter Townsend) in contrast, create a threatening atmosphere. Amelia Tuttleby and Gemma Middleton are mainly silent (maid to Madame and The Shoemaker respectively), yet prove to have a strong presence when on stage. Rachel Granger (Madame), Amy Johnston (Lapin) and Nathan Whitebrook (Conrad) are believable and didn’t once slip out of character.
It’s clear that thoughtful collaboration went into the creation of this performance and the final result is a testament to how effective this method of directing is. Teresa Izzard and the ensemble of Illyria have shaped a genuinely unique take on Lavery’s touching, graphic script and made it their own.
Crisp lighting design (Duncan Sharp) complements the performance, acts as a break between sequences, and sets the mood. In contrast the sound effects (Ali MacKellar) are sometimes strangely out of place which works to enhance the audience’s engagement with the performance, making them feel lost in a foreign world. The set (Jarryd Dobson) and costume (Alex Vernon and Michelle Endersbee) are appropriately plain so as not to detract attention from the performers. The make-up design (Heather Jerrems) is simple, striking and effective.
Wholly immersive and compelling, The Hayman Theatre Company’s production of Illyria is a powerful exploration of war themes through faultless movement sequences and enchanting storytelling. It is a refreshing piece of theatre that bodes well for rising talent in Perth.