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September 8, 2008 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Long Division

Cripples, orphans, blind people, orphans pretending to be blind people – Long Division has a cast of characters ranging from the tragic to the downright peculiar. The THEA 304 directing shows are always an exciting lucky dip – the only thing you can count on getting is something unexpected. Season two kicks off with three plays championing the disabled, the disenfranchised and the deserted.

The first offering of the night, Painted Rain directed by Brooke Smith-Harris, deals with two orphan boys stuck in a home. Outside it rains. Inside they battle each other, the system and the hand god dealt them, trying to find a connection to each other and a way to keep ‘drab and oppressive reality at bay’.

Staged in the intimate back space of Studio 77 with the audience seated in the round, it felt appropriately claustrophobic. The use of the space echoes the oppressive nature of the boys situation. We too felt hemmed in, watched by outside eyes, an atmosphere aided by the soundscape of rain rain rain. The heavy emotional content of the play was realized through the committed and heart-felt performances given by Sam Ennor and Hayden Frost.

The second show of the night, 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan- Lori Parks, was another kettle of fish entirely. In November 2002 Parks decided to write a play a day for a year. As you do. Director Gareth Hobbs has selected nine plays from throughout the cycle and woven these disparate elements into something that is altogether new – a project of which I am sure Parks would approve.

Taking place in the main space made cavernous by an empty stage and calendar pages dangling like stars on strings from the ceiling, the show whipped us about from beach to roadside, through song and dance and dialogue, all the way back to beach again. There were some beautiful images and the play transformed the mundane and everyday into the surprising and surreal – I particularly enjoyed the aeroplane sequence. I must admit I struggled to find a throughline linking the nine short pieces and I think as a whole it would benefit from smoother and faster transitions.

The final piece of the night, There is No Return by Eric Bradwell, was another heart wrencher. A family who have lost their son in the war celebrate the anniversary of his birth by burning a single candle…a strangely familiar stranger comes a-creeping around the garden…but the title, my friends. There is no happy ending.

This piece, directed by Jared Edwards, featured an ensemble cast whose strong performances really brought the sorrow of death to life. Mood lighting and lovely music (some written and performed by Jared himself) helped create an atmosphere tense with distress and heavy with trepidation. My suggestion to you all is sit in the front row. I was in the back and couldn’t see without kneeling.

So – I expected the unexpected and I was not disappointed. As an evening’s entertainment Long Division is poignant, peculiar and unexpectedly sad.

At Studio 77
3 – 6 September


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