‘A Mind Transcendent’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 13, 2018

‘A Mind Transcendent’ is a new sci-fi thriller by WA playwright Jordan Baynes, with some influence from the works of Imants Barušs (?). It is being presented by Hand in Hand Theatre under the supervision of production manager Rhiannon Moon. This is the company’s fourth show in the 2018 Season.

The two-hour performance can be seen in Studio 411, adjacent to car park 4, in the grounds of Murdoch University, South Street. The curtain goes up on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7.00. The season runs until 14th July.

 

The scene: some time, not too far in the future.

The set: which was designed by Julia Parks, had a long dais at the back of the stage, with a cyclorama as the rear wall, this acted as a colourful wall and a screen for the complex video projection (well done Ethan Harthill). On both sides of the stage was an ‘airlock’ door. Centre stage was a control desk with computer, sitting on a low platform illuminated below. The assistants for the construction of the set were Evie MacPherson, Celeste Chinnery and Tristan Peers.

The whole scene was proudly overlooked by The Judgement League’s symbol (designers Christie Tanjaya, Daniel Swan and Deidre Khoo’s company, Deedledum Designs).

Ella Ewart’s lighting design was colourful, and for the security doors most effective. The lighting operator was Alexandra Haynes.

The stage manager was Thomas Wendt, who was assisted by James Jury.

 

         The stage lights rise to show three young people asleep on the floor of a scientific control room. Two of them awake. Ethan (Domenic Scriva) looks around and sees the other two visitors, Soren (Kamara Churchill) and Diana (Tijana Simich). As they chat, Ethan explains how he has come to the Judgement League headquarters – home of ideal living and personal inner satisfaction – in order to find his sister Sophie (Nashy MZ) who may have joined this dystopian ‘cult’. Then Diana mysteriously disappears.

       An Indiana Jones lookalike, Justice League worker, ‘L’ (Michael Surjan) seems to hover around the new recruits. Who is this stranger? Why is he there?

        One of the League’s assistants / guards, Summer (Tiarn Hutton), explains that if they wish to continue within the organisation, that they must complete a computer quiz and problems, and only then will they be allowed to progress.

         Ethan talks ethereally to Serah (Sarah Papadoulis), learning of the ever-watching commanders, G (Nicolletta de Gennaro), U (Oscar Sheil) and their leader, M (Harrison Mitchell).

         Will the new recruits find what they are looking for? Or is disaster ahead?

 

The excellent background music and realistic sound effects were the work of Aiden Willoughby and Claire Mosel-Crossley.

The costumes (designed by Róisín Keiley, with help from Katie Ward and Cody Lam) were very good, ranging from the smart black, managerial outfits of the League’s controllers, to the dark blue overalls of the new recruits. Then there was the Raider of the Lost Ark look alike, and the impressive silver space suits.

I saw the show on the opening night, and sadly there were a few problems. At the opening of the show, the background music was loud, very loud. The musical score and production quality was superb, and I guess the director wanted a dramatic start, but for the first five minutes I couldn’t hear a single word of dialogue – and I was in the front row. The ‘space’ men had headsets, but one microphone was way off line; and although perfectly logically the voices were given a slight distortion for a robotic effect, the distortion was excessive and made the dialogue very difficult to comprehend. There was a sigh of relief when the headset was switched off and the actor performed with her own voice. However, the biggest sound problem was when, near the end, ‘the key and answer’ to the adventurers’ problems was spoken in the Bio Box without a microphone! Barely a whisper could be heard by the audience outside, further compounded by an audience member’s phone buzzing.

Several of the cast were quite inexperienced, and so were still speaking with no voice projection. Practise using your diaphragm as a sounding chamber so that you can speak with a bellow. Likewise, the cast had little urgency and rarely showed anger or distress – except for Nicolletta de Gennaro, very well done.

The programme was printed in a futurist style of font, which was inventive.

Having spoken of the problems, mainly tech, I have to admire the playwright and the director (Justin Mosel-Crossley, assisted by Cody Lam) who gave us a new genre of production. Trying something as different as this is admirable, and I am sure that tonight many problems will have been resolved. There is only one way to learn, and that is to try something new. The writer and director could easily have presented a stock standard play and succeeded nicely, but the show would have been forgotten by next week. Undoubtedly, this one will be the seed for several to come.

The actors moved well, were word perfect and spoke clearly, although a little too softly.

A touch more pace, resolution of the technicalities, and this play will be a winner.