Terra Nemo Theatre Company’s production of The Bohemian and the Machine is loaded with powerful, sophisticated writing, strong performances and design elements that are simplistic yet timeless for a work that jolts its characters back and forth through their history together. With a friendship that endures growth, separation, and multiple challenges driving the story, the production shone as a humble yet intricate play about development, control and choice.
Isabelle (Katrina Tiffany) and Paul (Zayne Woodley-Lake) began the production with their backs to each other, their faces inches from the walls, separated by the entire distance of the stage. Patrons snuck past them, making their way through Ella Lincoln’s delicate and beautiful set that foregrounded the themes of nature and home, constructed from dry, pale materials such as paper and wood. The costumes continued this light palette with Tiffany and Woodley-Lake wearing simple white outfits that looked to be handmade. This brought an endearing charm to the characters’ presence rather than putting them at the more amateur side of the spectrum of costume design and creation. The delicacy of the costumes and set was then matched with the delicate interchanging power dynamics between two friends who sometimes seemed like an unlikely match, while at other times seeming to blend together in a harmonious transfusion of understanding and compromise.
Writer William Hinz’s words were the star of this production. With every cheeky remark or detailed philosophical statement he invited us into his play’s quaint, small town location, and complex characters’ minds to uncover a universe of childhood confusion, teenage angst and unsettling adult realities. Director Katie-May Hollett did well to polish Hinz’s writing in such a way as to predominantly enhance the dynamics of the pair. The transitions between scenes, however, resulted in Hollett unfortunately pointed out the repetitive nature of Hinz’s short and episodic scenes. As the performance jumped around in time from one short scene to the next, Hollett’s sharp and simple transitions through a playful manipulation or relocation of the actors’ bodies worked well. Unfortunately the addition of disjointed sound and lighting design overpowered the impact of the seamless transitions. In this instance, the incorporation of tech would have benefited from a ‘less is more’ approach. A stripped back permanent lighting state and clear, purposeful sound design would have enhanced Hollett’s scenes and playful transitions; instead the transitions left audience members squirming in their seats every few minutes as they were as the flow of the action was interrupted by a snap to darkness and five to ten seconds of music.
Isabelle, or Izzy, led the action with Tiffany doing well to carry the character’s complexity from a naïve teenager to a dishevelled and conflicted young woman. Izzy’s Christian upbringing was behind the majority of her beliefs, life choices and conflicts in her life, making for an interesting character and requiring an intricate performance from Tiffany. While Tiffany’s performance shone in Izzy’s adulthood, her portrayal of Izzy’s younger ages teetered between believable and pantomime. Woodley-Lake’s performance as the hesitant yet endearing Paul, however, was stunning, with a range and intricacy that made Paul the most captivating to watch at every age and through all of the stages of his relationship with Izzy. From a subtlety in his jaw and fingertips, to a natural presence and comfort on stage throughout, Woodley-Lake’s performance stood out as one of the most powerful elements of the show, second only to Hinz’s writing.
Hinz’s work covers conflict between fact and faith, science and religion, instinct and strategy, and all of the troubles that arise as a result of friendship, family, futures and love. As these themes were presented with a soft and heartfelt set and costume design, direction that prioritised remaining truthful to the writing, and strong performances from the two actors, Terra Nemo Theatre Company began their season for 2016 in a warm glow of hope and promise.
– Written by Rhumer Diball April 15 2016
THE BOHEMIAN AND THE MACHINE PRESENTED BY TERRA NEMO THEATRE COMPANY
THUR 14 – SAT 16 APRIL 2016.
Photo credit Jonathan O’Brien