It is often hard to recognise when someone is speaking from the heart, particularly when bringing to the surface social issues they personally have come to question.
Local Western Australian playwright and poet Maitland Schnaars, however, has no difficulty in authentically conveying what concerns him in his performance If I Drown I Can Swim.
Young men often model their view of masculinity from their fathers. Writer and performer Maitland Schnaars makes use of strikingly vivid poetry, intermittent dialogue, and simplistic storytelling to weave a foggy fictional exploration into what it means to be a man in a contemporary world.
Director Joe Lui focuses on the actors’ movement in the dark studio space, an array of props, and genuine dialogue to express the desired message. Covering everything from cocktails of drugs and substance abuse to racism and mental illness, the direction of the performance is strongest when openly questioning its central themes: masculinity and love.
[pull_left]It is clear that Maitland Schnaars has become enveloped in his journey to discover what it means to be a man, and this is enough to make his voice heard[/pull_left]
While Maitland Schnaars and co-performer Katya Shevtsov engage in dialogue, the performance is more preoccupied with its underlying message than its story. Evocative poetry punctuates a sporadically arranged series of events. The result is a somewhat disorienting narrative that leaves its audience wanting a more concrete idea of where they are in the character’s life.
Despite this, the script does not fail to deliver a thorough insight into the struggles of the modern man. Resonating loudly is the idea that if a boy grows up in a troubled environment, where his father displays violence, he will not know how to be a father or a husband. Shevtsov especially is able to re-enforce this, demonstrating multiple female personalities throughout a man’s life.
On a technical level, the lighting and sound design were simple and effective. Quiet background music generated an atmosphere of haunting melancholy, while sparing yellow spotlights and a shuddering torchlight illuminated the black studio. These elements subtly accompanied the performance without swamping it, which could have occurred in this particularly small space if the lighting design and music were too overwhelming.
If nothing else, each dramatic transition in If I Drown I Can Swim is entirely fluid, which may account for the chaotic narrative. It is clear that Maitland Schnaars has become totally enveloped in his journey to discover what it means to be a man, and this is enough to make his voice heard. Touching and relevant, while this performance at Perth Fringe World is nothing outrageous, it knows how to speak out.
Tuesday 29 January – Saturday 2 February 2013