Review: boy girl wall
Bursting on to the scene, far above my right shoulder, appears our narrator, Lucus Sibbard. He is here to guide us through this story: in one apartment, lives a boy; next door, a girl; between them, a wall. Thom and Aletha battle on their lives alone: he, wishing he was an astronomer, wasting his days in an IT job where he doesn’t really know what his job is at all; she, a children’s book author working on that difficult second book, for which not a word has been written. The wall, living between them for years, decides what needs to happen is Thom and Aletha must meet. This isn’t a love story, we’re told. But it is a story about love.
Lucas bounds up and down and across the stage, always talking to and referring to the audience (“Who goes to the theatre on a Thursday?” he asks his Thursday theatre audience): our presence as much an integral part of the production as the action itself. Perhaps it’s even more so: we sneak a look into the lives of this pair in what seems to be the middle of their story. Lucus brings us in on a Tuesday (“Nothing happens on a Tuesday.”), leaves us with a kiss, and in 75 minutes the story is all over. And joining us and Aletha and Thom on this crazy journey is the inanimate objects which play a part: the wall, the doors, the computer Dave, the powerbox, the days of the week. Are days of the week inanimate objects? They’re surely not animate objects, but then again, they’re hardly objects. Inanimate inobjects?
Sarah Winter sits above the action, orchestrating a series of odd instruments composed by Neridah Waters, soundscaping with a delicate touch, a hint of whimsy, and an occasional burst of pop song. The set (Jonathon Oxlade) is a chalkboard stage floor thrusting into the audience, chalkboard upon chalkboard building up in a wall above the stage. Playing across the two dimensional stage and wall, lighting (Keith Clark) illuminates and hides created spaces. From all this and a stick of chalk, Lucus builds his set.
Everything about this production is undeniably theatrical. The Escapists understand this crazy medium which we love and set out to exploit every last inch of it. No need for crazy elaborate sets and a cast of thousands (or even the dozen or so who feature in this script) boy girl wall is simply one man having a dialogue, with the motley group of people who paid money to spend time together in a dark room on an evening in Brisbane.
And in Brisbane we are. boy girl wall is fiercely local: the magpie of Montague Road, cycling through the streets of the West End. Having just barely explored the city I couldn’t place most of the references, but I didn’t need to – for me, that lovely understanding that this was a Brisbane play was enough.
What is lovely about this play is that it is just truly delightful. That’s not to say we meet perfect characters living in a perfect world where the perfect is perfectly perfect. Thom and Aletha live their lives, and shit happens. They have terrible jobs, writers block, dickheads for bosses; they have to make choices between 24 hours of amateur theatre sports and losing their job; bikes are lost, birds attack, mistakes are made; they are lonely, they live in the world, they live their lives the way they do.
But no one dies; no one overdoses on drugs; no one wakes to find it was all a dream. There is no hand of god thudding us back to a dark reality with a “it’s all going to work out crap after all.” Through the bad, the good of life goes on. In theatre, I find this can be all too rare. And it is just nice: as small and as big as that word is.
And now: a word on the audience.
I saw boy girl wall on what was, as far as I can tell, a typical Thursday night in Brisbane. Nice weather, school term, sold out first performance of a return show at a 340 seat theatre in an inner suburb. I got to the theatre about thirty minutes before curtain, because I had very much overestimated the size of Brisbane. I picked up my ticket, was given a voucher for a free glass of champagne (thank you, sponsors!), and wondered into the courtyard adjacent to the theatre to whittle away the time.
There, I was thrust into a crowd of teenagers. More specifically, teenage girls, all very excited to go into the theatre. I wasn’t there for long before they started to line up to get the best seats in the general admission theatre. I would estimate a good 65% of the audience were teenage girls, and the rest of the audience was a huge mix of age ranges: those “typical theatre goers” (insert what ever definition you want to here) were lining up, too.
And these girls – along with the whole audience – were absolutely engaged in the production. The topical references are written for someone the age of the creators – I felt too young for many – yet it is exactly that type of slightly lewd, slightly quirky comedy you feel excited to discover in your teens. It is a show which is delightfully theatrical, meta references sewn in through the whole piece. It embraces its medium, and asks the audience to fully invest in what theatre is, what the relationship between artists and audience is. And invest this young, enthusiastic audience did. I think there was something like four curtain calls, and I never got tired of clapping: the love for that show was palpable.
I don’t think a performance day has gone past since the season has been playing where La Boite’s facebook didn’t pop up with another announcement: “Today’s show is sold out!” This show left my heart singing, spring in my step, and I was delighted and invigorated. By the show, by the theatricality, by the wonderful piece of theatre, of course; but, also excited by the group of theatre goers I got to share the audience with.
I don’t know what sort of crazy local Brisbane theatre charm The Escapists and La Boite Theatre are spinning up there, but I love it. I wish I could see more of it.
La Boite presents boy girl wall, a production by The Escapists. Script by Matthew Ryan & Lucas Stibbard, realisers Matthew Ryan, Lucas Stibbard, Neridah Waters & Sarah Winter, composer Neridah Waters, lighting designer Keith Clark, redesign Jonathon Oxlade. With Lucas Stibbard, music performed by Sarah Winter. Originally produced with Metro Arts. At La Boite Theatre, Brisbane, with the Brisbane Festival, until September 25. More information and tickets.
Photos by Al Caeiro