Melbourne Fringe Review: More Intimate Than

by Jane

Those of us who sit around the table tonight have been selected. We’ve been watched. Observed. Chosen because we are just the right balance of people who might – just might – remember. We might be able to be reminded. And when we’re reminded, when we remember, we might – just might – help someone else remember.

In a street-front gallery on Brunswick St sits a little house built of sheets. Solid sheets and lace sheets drape over the long dining table, windows quilted into the fabric. As we enter the gallery and wait to enter the house, through the curtains we watch as a woman, Punzel (Laura Jane Emes), is in the house setting the table: counting and recounting plates, adjusting their alignment although they remain always crooked. There is a slight air of discomfort as we wait: has the show begun yet? Should I be looking through into the space? Is it okay to speak?

When all of the guests have arrived, however, we are invited into the space and directed to a take a seat. There is a seat reserved for Punzel’s mother, and a seat reserved for Punzel’s father, while the rest of the seats reserved for us.

Punzel makes adorable and slightly too earnest chit-chat, sitting on edge as she waits for her mother to come to the table. Emes plays the role very young, and brings to Punzel a curious unease, as if she was almost a child playing pretend, yet confident in this world of make-believe. When her mother Sophia (Jamaica Zuanetti) enters the conversation, she is simultaneously more confident in herself than her daughter is, while also perhaps being less confident in the task at hand.

While waiting for the show to begin, I misheard the name Repunzel, and I later then took Punzel to be an abbreviation. This caused me to create a different path for where the work would take us: Repunzel is such a loaded name with such a singular story attached to it, I was slightly confused when the work didn’t take us down this path.

But while writer Bridget Mackey doesn’t take us down this path, More Intimate Than still holds many strains of a fairytale world. We are a part of a world where food has been replaced by injections: now, no one eats, there is no longer any food, a fork and a knife are foreign objects. This world is unanchored in time: references to gender norms hark back to a bygone world of fairytales; injections replacing food are of a sci-fi future.

Mackey and creators explore darkness in the work as the audience is asked to remember how to eat – and the rituals which go along with that – to save Punzel’s father from behind his dead eyes, but in this production stops short of being quite as tense or dark as the world could be.

More Intimate Than plays with the balance of giving and withholding information, with some information deliberately withhold, and other information not given in full because within the world of the play we are expected to know this.  Through this a tension builds through the work, but again not as tense as you hope to find as an audience member.

At just thirty minutes, the work seems to stop slightly short with much more to be found within the world. I kept on waiting for More Intimate Than to become more forceful, to find its way into the truly creepy, or truly uncomfortable.  As it stands the work, and Punzel, sit more in the world of the almost sweet and slightly off-centre. The uncomfortable never truly uncomfortable, the creepy not quite creepy enough.

Honeycreepers present More Intimate Than, written and directed by Bridget Mackey. Assistant director, producer and theatre technician Amandine Evens, set designer Skye Gallagher. With Laura Jane Emes and Jamaica Zuanetti. At Conduit Arts with the Melbourne Fringe until October 13. More information and tickets. 

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