Prove your humanity

During the recent Fringe season, The Blue Room Theatre’s ‘Summer Nights’ presented 600 Seconds, a series of short theatrical productions by an array of artists. The aptly-named event gave six teams ten minutes of stage time each to develop characters and deliver a complete and cohesive narrative. Starting with a fish funeral and ending with an elusive tale told through puppetry, 600 Seconds showed no fear in delving into completely independent and experimental pieces.

The opening act was SNUFF Theatre’s The Fun in Funeral, a comedic piece performed by Alex Hutchings and Travis Koch. Capturing its audience with a eulogy led by a kazoo, this show managed to become increasingly chaotic and unpredictable as it progressed. Hutchings and Koch were believable as kid brothers and succeeded in portraying both the silly and sentimental aspects of their sibling rivalry. Their physical comedy was surprisingly complex and perfectly synchronised, an entertaining addition that incited strong reactions from the audience.

The chaos of this production subsided into the calm of Asha Kiani’s Drift, a patient and honest retrospective take on loss. Drift made use of song, audience interaction, monologuing and non-linear storytelling to express thoughts and feelings surrounding a personal tragedy. There was a definite sweetness to Kiani’s unflinchingly open performance; she was relaxed before her audience and enthusiastic to incorporate them into retellings of a complex and emotional history.

Tim Lorian’s Yoga is slightly more difficult to surmise, a poetry-slam and yoga session performed by Chelsea Gibson and Isabelle Stonehouse. This piece was fast-paced and heavy with dialogue, incorporating repetition, rhythm and humour into the conversation that passed between its two characters. Every moment of verbal interaction was inscrutably timed and precisely enacted by Gibson and Stonehouse, who both spoke with an almost manic sense of urgency. The discussion was pointedly contemporary, deceptively shallow and self-aware, an engaging spectacle that I would need to see again to fully grasp.

Ugly Virgins shared similarities with Yoga, quickly establishing itself as a comedic socio-political commentary set in the present day. The production, which was created and performed by Sally Davies, Anna Lindstedt and Courtney Cavallaro, played with the idea of safe spaces and social taboos. The actors portrayed three distinct characters within the same satirical world and relied upon the audience to embody the voice of reason. Initially posing as a discussion of sexual disempowerment, the show scooted around the issue before addressing it head-on. The effect was simultaneously subtle and impactful, brutal and light-hearted; slipping uncomfortable truths between laughable fictions.

Next was the bizarre tale of The Brutes Kitchen Battles by Lucy Wong and Lily Murrell. This piece was a re-imaging of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a work that I was not overly familiar with before attending the show. Regardless, I appreciated the humour that Wong and Murrell found in re-writing elements of the strange and cyclical story. The pair reframed Beckett’s narrative through the lens of feminism, performing the piece as unkempt women who, rather than waiting, must labour for the guest that never arrives. While my own artistic ignorance hindered the experience, I enjoyed watching the actors give energetic and uninhibited performances.

A significant mental shift was necessary to settle into the final show, a combination of object theatre and puppet manipulation created by Daniel Dosek. Good Boy was received by an entirely silent, frozen audience fixated on the subtle movements and muffled voices of the previously inanimate objects. The narrative unfolded on a harshly-lit, minimalistic stage, where Dosek and co-star Kyle Bywaters made no attempts to hide their presence. I felt that the visible theatrics of the piece actually added to its impact and humanity. With a seamless and impressive ease, the puppeteers coerced the movements of the characters to tell a story steeped in emotion.

Each show within 600 Seconds undoubtedly had an audience in mind – an ideal viewership that would respond to a specific sense of humour, subject of interest or world-view. It is therefore unlikely that every artistic vision articulated as part of the production would be a theatre-wide success. This is an inevitable condition to an artistically-diverse event, but one that comes with considerable reward. 600 Seconds gave audiences the chance to taste-test entertainment and expand their theatrical palate while local artists could exercise a less-than-conventional concept. 600 Seconds was a testament to the potential held within ten minutes and the value of artistic opportunity.

600 Seconds was a part of the Fringe World Festival in Perth.