‘Escape Goat Utopia’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by October 8, 2014

‘Escape Goat Utopia’ is a devised piece by the Hayman Theatre Company under the supervision of Artist in Residence – Jeffrey Jay Fowler. This 70-minute Curtin Performance Studies production can be seen, for a very reasonable price, at the Hayman Theatre Upstairs in building 102, Curtin University, Bentley each night at 7.00 until Saturday 11th October.

Free parking after 4.00.

 

The sidewalls and floor are covered in artificial turf, an ingenious idea from set designer Lachlan MacDonald, as it seemed to fit all the situations in this set of sketches. He combined the grass with a rear wall of silver stranded, ‘burlesque style’curtains and the effect was visually stunning. (Set and properties by Caitlin McFeat, Jordan Norrish, Scarlett Yakovina, and Zoe Street, and stage managed by Aaron Smith and his assistant Sean Guastavino).

 

        Because goats are nibbling at the very fabric of the Earth, a new safer planet – a goat free Utopia – must be found.

       To the sound of aircraft gunfire, a soldier (Monty Sallur) is found bleeding to death by one of his buddies (Jack Middleton). Petrified of dying alone, he makes a final request of his friend.

      A famous actress (Rebecca ‘Bubble’ Maynard – who is actually a wonderfully natural presenter in a Channel 7 teenagers’ programme) is shopping in IGA when she is spotted by an old school friend (Rhiannon Petersen, hilarious) who sidles up to her and tries to ingratiate herself.

      A young man sobs (Nathan Whitebook) as his pregnant girlfriend (Beth Tremlett) tells him she is leaving.

     Another pregnant young girl (Savannah Wood) is starting a new job, assembling toy models of goats. She is shown how to do this by a friendly, but overzealous supervisor (Ariel Tresham, what a captivating mover).

 

These are a few of the dozen or more, high quality sketches that kept us entertained. As well as the main theme of ‘goats’, other similarities and parallels cleverly interlinked the sketches. You can see that a great deal of work has gone into the writing and development of this show. The standard of this devised production is the highest that I have seen at Curtin in years. The immaculate lighting design by Karen Cook, although limited by the ancient lighting rig selection, was versatile and varied. Ashleigh Ryan smoothly operated the complex lighting schedule. The magnificent soundscape was designed Olivia Dugandzic who had obviously put a vast amount of effort into the complex depth of the sound effects and choice of music. Again, the operator Brittany Manifis had superb control of the cuing and volume. The costume design by Simone Chodorowski had a great deal of thought behind the styles, and Chelsea Johnston made the costumes themselves.

The idea of a devised piece for theatre students is to encourage them to try something new and exciting. To present to the audience a new experience. What the students have devised is extremely well presented. The acting and characterisation were first class.

The award winning director, Jeffrey Jay Fowler and his assistant director, Emelia Peet, have done a brilliant job guiding the students through their creation – and it is not the director’s task to create the script, but to help them get the most out of it. A little more script variety would have been welcome, perhaps a song or dance? They did have a Philip Marlowe scene that was very well observed and terrific in the presentation. The dramaturge by Emily Kingsley, who was recently outstanding in ‘The Shimmerin’’, developed plenty of quality movement. The students had a ‘daring’ final scene that worked well and stretched their stage experience outside their comfortable zone.

As I said, the acting and presentation of this devised piece was possibly the best I have seen by Curtin students in five years. The actors all seemed totally focused and their rapport was superb, not a weak link in sight.

Most enjoyable.