This Is How I Met You tells its audience very little about itself before they enter the theatre, almost as if the show is following its title by having its audience go in almost blind before encountering the story and characters for the first time. The production’s description tells us that it is an exploration of the human condition and our instinctual nature. The description continues to explain that the productiondiscusses what connects us, drives us and scares us away. This description is not incorrect, on the contrary it covers what the production attempts, albeit in a vague way. The production is considerably the opposite of this simple description, it is loaded with concepts, issues and relationship dynamics to explore. Unfortunately, This Is How I Met You overdoses on all of these things. It attempts to tackle a discussion of puberty, social anxiety, isolation, sex, gender, emotional abuse, love and age, to name a few, all within 50 minutes. Each of these concepts is perfectly valid for a performance topic, however combining them sets the team up for a challenge that is undoubtedly possible to execute, however virtually impossible to execute well.
With three actors occupying the space, the performance seemed to be a simplistic portrayal of three individual characters coming together to discuss an open ended topic. Unfortunately, the characters these actors were asked to portray were as overflowing as the production was in its concepts. It was initially unclear whether each actor was portraying a single character and all three of their respective journeys were being presented simultaneously, or whether the three actors worked together as an ensemble to portray a multitude of human beings with small stories, usually 5 or so minutes in length, to tell to their audience and one another. As the show passed its half way point it became clear that the latter was the case, and that each moment was only a minuscule discussion and consideration of concepts like the tip of an iceberg on top of a formidable ocean. If a single topic had been chosen perhaps these characters could have provided some diversity in approaches and perspectives; instead, it became overwhelming to sit through so many voices and sudden changes in topics, stories and conversations.
Despite these issues Daniel Hurst managed to charm the audience with a strong presence on stage and comedic timing that shook the yoga studio space with laughter. Unfortunately, the more serious moments that required the vulnerable and heart wrenching side of the acting coin were lacking in believability from all three actors. Adequately written monologues about social anxiety and emotionally abusive partners were delivered with an attempt at truth, however the direction of these moments forced actors to struggle, with their deliveries being rendered rehearsed and clichéd.
On the note of line delivery, just as the production’s description was vague, so too was who exactly wrote the dialogue that the actors delivered. The production credits two directors (James Schofield and Madeleine McMahon) and three actors (Daniel Hurst, Georgia Broe Weddell, and Paige Killen). After research, it is revealed that Teegan Shalless was somehow involved, and that this production went through two creative developments before being performed in this current season. Considering this, the question of whether a single or collection of playwrights wrote the work, or whether the piece was created collaboratively by an ensemble left me unable to focus on where one role began and another ended. Regardless, with two directors and the same number of creative developments one would assume a clear message from the work’s cacophony of concepts, characters and issues would have been developed. The piece did manage to maintain pace, smooth transitions and a variety of mediums to convey meaning, however the true meaning and message behind the work was left ambiguous.
One area where the piece did showcase well-executed elements was in the sound design. A mixture of ambient noise, seamless song choices and delicate blends in and out of transitions gave the problematic piece something positive to fall back on. Unfortunately many of the songs or full music pieces were accompanied by tedious movement sequences that brought little more to the show than down time from the otherwise explosive banter and fast paced scenes.
This work may have explored the human condition and our instinctual nature, however it tried to cover too much without a clear foundational message to drive it. Perhaps this production could act as a third creative development, and could provide much needed encouragement to break some of these concepts into separate subsequent works that delve into each area with the time and depth they deserve.
– Written by Rhumer Diball April 16 2016
THIS IS HOW I MET YOU PRESENTED BY THE STAN DUP ENSEMBLE.
FRI 15 – SAT 16 APRIL 2016.
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