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January 23, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Aviary (La Mama Theatre)

Published 4/8/09 at

La Mama Theatre is the kind of place that reeks of Melbourne’s theatrical history. As a heritage-listed building, you get the feeling it will always hold a place in dramatic circles as an avenue for budding artists and underground acts to find their audience. La Mama’s latest show Aviary fulfils this criteria, as it is a trio of short plays by emerging writers and performed by three young actors.

The first play, Revelation or Bust, is a running commentary and critique about post-modern consumerism. It commences with the exploration of one moment, that of a young girl being thrown off a bridge, a real occurrence which has been indelibly etched into the mind of Melbourne’s consciousness. From there the play moves into a sub-reality, exploring humanity’s connection with reality in a world where we are defined by our consumer habits. This play speaks more of frustration with our detachment from a true connection with society than anything else.

Edmund and Grace was probably the most compelling and shocking of the three performances. The cast dwindles to a duo as the title characters demonstrate their complex and twisted relationship as brothers living separate from society. An intriguing back-story about an older benefactor gradually becomes the main storyline as the rapport between Edmund and Grace is twisted, reversed, idealised and revealed as a powerful symbol of love and the fear of separation. The shock end succeeds because the play has worked so hard to establish the deep connections between the pair, one which inevitably forces them to act to stay together.

Small Movements for Three Actors stands out as the most perplexing of the three plays. At first, it seems like the beginning of a typical relationship for two young lovers, but it suddenly shifts to a monologue by the son of a dementia patient. It appears that there are two performers involved in the creation of the son character; one serves as the character’s sub-conscious while the other roams, confused and frustrated, in the real world. In the end, trying to divulge meaning from mountains of cryptic symbolism and disjointed dialogue meant that it wasn’t entirely worth the effort. It is difficult to enjoy a play when it has become too hard to garner any real meaning from it. It must be acknowledged that the primary flaw of these plays, and particularly of the last play, is that they try too hard to be cryptic and serious in order to be perceived as artistic. Aviary</i> is a good example of an increasingly valid perception that performances can only be artistic when they are dark, serious and laden with symbolism.

Nevertheless, this trio is not totally bereft of all positivity. Revelation or Bust demonstrates an oddly sweet sense of hope about the potential of humankind. Edmund and Grace is a cruel testament to the power of love, and Small Movements for Three Actors is a whirlwind of ideas that leaves you more perplexed than inspired. It means that at the very least, you are ignorant of any depressing ideas it may hold in store. Aviary is a collection of plays that do tend to fall into the trap of occasional self-indulgent symbolism, but for the most part they show the strength and diversity of new-age writers who aren’t afraid to try different ideas. None of the plays reveals themselves completely until the very end, and rely heavily on the past as a motivator for current revelations in the character’s lives. Experiencing Aviary is indicative of the way the intricacies of each performance are only revealed when you give them the through they deserve.


Place: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton

Dates: July 15-August 2, 2009

Time: Wednesdays and Sundays at 6.30pm, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8.00pm (85 minutes)


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