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Matt Robinson 1

Review: Gorge 09 - Saturday 21st Nov

Day Three: Footsoilders by Nicki Bloom
Presented by Brink Productions with the Adelaide Festival Centre's inSPACE Program, as a part of the Feast Festival
At the Space Theatre

The third and final night of Gorge 09 gave us Nicki Bloom’s Footsoilders presented by Real Time Collaborators and Stone/Castro. Bloom’s script was, I felt, the strongest of the three nights, with the most directed frame (even with the least descriptions and stage directions), and the one which I initially responded to the most, and this, in conjunction with the two more traditional theatre companies, strangely lead to a less exhilarating night of Gorge, but one that was fun nonetheless.

Footsoliders is set in a post-apocalyptic world where shoes have become currency, and the most valuable shoe of all is Reebok Pumps. Bash (Emma Beech / Merwan Stevens) and Cy (Sigh? Something completely unrelated?) (Antje Guenther / Nick Bennet) are footsoliders for The Boss, and in the play Bash shows Cy the Reebok Pumps he got his hands on – hypothesised to have cost “five, six years of work […] maybe $300,000” when new – which will make The Boss powerful beyond all others, now he has two pairs. Bash and Cy admire the shoes, planning their presentation, as they wait for The Boss. Someone in the audience commented that the script had a very Waiting For Godot-feel, and while there were tinges of that, I rather feel that’s a bit of a disservice to Beckett - Vladimir and Estragon were waiting a hell of a lot longer than ten minutes!

Real Time Collaborator’s production, directed by Tessa Leong, began even as we left the Space for the interval, and saw thongs lying around the lobby – the first one I saw I thought, “how could someone lose one thong?”, but as I saw more I realised their must be a connection to an upcoming interpretation! As many of the audience (including Bloom) noticed before the performances even began, four actors were listed in the program for RTC, with Craig Behenna and Hew Parham rounding out the cast as mute additional footsoliders; the four cast members were also devisors on the piece. Leong and RTC choose to expand on the absurdist-humour of Bloom’s script, with an audience member commenting on the Marx Brothers-feel to the characters, while Panham reminded me of a Woodley (of Lano and Woodley)-like comic. Emphasising the shoes-as-currency aspect of the script, the back half of the stage was littered with grey and white thongs, relieved when the uncut newspaper-roll curtains were ripped down. The emphasis of brand names was also shown in the design (with Clare Butler credited as Design Consultant), with Bash wearing Nike wristbands, and Cy an Adidas t-shirt. Behenna and Parham’s characters didn’t wear any brand name wear that I could see, further showing the ranking of the footsoilders.

In contrast to RTC, Stone/Castro, with Paulo Castro as director, chose to emphasis the violence implicated in the piece. Bash was shown to be severely mentally disturbed, jumping from a level of sanity, to hysterics, to fits; Stevens said he didn’t want you to look at the character and think, “hmm, he seems healthy.” While humour was still inherent in the piece, the play was much darker, contributed to through the eerie music by Ben Frost, although the volume of the sound was quite painful. Focal pieces of a gun and red material, with lighting on only a narrow strip of the stage added to the inherent darkness in Bloom’s script.

While each company chose to emphasis a different aspect of Bloom’s script, the frame work within which they performed were still quite similar, and there would be no mistaking they were working off the same script (unlike, say, the Friday night productions). The performances in S/C’s production were stronger and more polished than RTC, and the person I attended Saturday of Gorge with preferred the darker more polished S/C. I however, preferred the humour and heart of RTC, while thoroughly enjoying both. This year was my first experiencing Gorge, and I hope I get to experience it again soon.

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In other news, the annoying question askers were out in full force last night. Just when I was ready to praise Brink’s screening process for audience members, last night happened. No, we don’t want to know what lead you to sitting in the theatre tonight. No, we do not need to know your life story and how that framed your experience of the play. Yes, we heard your question; we also heard the answer. Several times. No need to ask it again. And again. And again. Especially when the question is stupid, and the answer was “no.” Ask your question, and then sit down and shut up, I want to hear the cast and creatives, not you. This advice should also be used for audience members at Writers’ Week and the Festival of Ideas: Adelaide, you have been warned.