Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review: Us


By Grit Theatre

It's always the same – just as the Fringe hits the home stretch some new horse comes flying out of nowhere to tear up the turf. This is that show, for me. Totally unexpected, completely irresistible. I loved it.

It's billed as an exploration of what it means to be in your early twenties but – WAIT, COME BACK! I know, I know, that makes it sound like another student production of He Died with a Felafel in his Hand, but it's nothing of the sort. It's a play, but only if you try really really hard to make it one. Rather, it's better understood through the logic of music (or perhaps even visual art). The 'story' is less essential than the rhythm, the harmonies and the sudden key changes that occur, or the relationships between elements and their gestalt production of a whole – its effects arise quite independently of any notion of character or drama or any o' that guff.

There's a lot of split focus and overlapping dialogue which is as skilfully deployed as anything I can recall seeing – we're guided from conversation to conversation imperceptibly, through minute changes in the volume of speakers' voices or subtle visual cues that grab our attention. At the same time, there's a sense of real anarchy and spontaneity throughout, and a great deal of humour.

Humour's not really the word though – it's closer to joy, and that's the lifeblood of this production. The closest relative I can think of is Ontreorend Goed's Once and For All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen; where that show drove home the incredible richness of teenage life, Us does a similar thing to twentysomething-dom. It also bears close relations to Ranters Theatre in the casual, conversational style that conceals the sophistication undergirding all. There are a few 'theatrical' moments that come from nowhere, and they knocked me through the back wall.

It can be relatively easy to wow audiences with dark themes and watered-down versions of tragedy, but it's rare that a work can make magic out of sheer, unconditional celebration. This is ecstatic theatre and I would see it again and again and again.

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