Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Shadows Pass Only Once by David Temme

Our Shadows Pass Only Once by David Temme.  Produced by David Temme and Caroline Stacey. Directed by Andrew Holmes, lighting and set design by Gillian Schwab, sound design by Shoeb Ahmad, at The Street 2, Canberra, October 11-19, 2012.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

If this were a piece of music, it’s subtitle would be A tone poem for four voices.  The orchestral continuo is provided by Shoeb Ahmad’s electronic soundscape, foregrounded by a soprano (Sarah Nathan-Truesdale), a tenor (Josh Wiseman), a contralto (Caroline Simone O’Brien), and a baritone (Raoul Craemer).  The two higher voices represent a younger couple; the lower voices an older couple.

The essence of the interplay of voices is to show the stresses and strains of love – which binds, and in doing so pulls couples together while equally pushing them apart.  If Our Shadows Pass Only Once were presented on radio, the final sound would be footsteps and the opening and closing click of a door.

On stage, the visual “orchestration” consists of pale colours in the younger characters’ costumes, darker colours in the older, against black and white, in both the physical setting of chairs, walls and floor, and in the live camera projections, which often provided different angles from what we could see on the stage before us.  The movement “orchestration”, keeping pace with Ahmad’s slowly changing pitch, tone and timbre, consists of gradual rearrangement of position of characters, chairs and lighting which sometimes seem to represent physical relationships but as often emotional distances.

The author has called his work “abstract” but it is so only in the same sense that music may be called abstract.  It creates a continually changing sense of emotional engagement in us, and takes us through a wide range of feeling qualities, until the question is asked “How long can we go on doing this?”

The spell is broken, the characters walk, not quite together yet perhaps not entirely apart, to the rear door of the stage, push the release bar and exit – in the case of The Street 2, out into the open air as if into the city and its lights.  The coda is complete, and we are left with the experience of the music in our memory.

As theatre goes, Our Shadows is unusual but, for me at least, satisfying, so long as you attend to what you see, hear and feel as you would in a concert hall.

As a work in progress from The Hive, The Street’s development program for new writers, I judge it to be highly successful, in its own right as a complete work at this stage, and as a stepping off point for David Temme.  He can confidently move on to writing more new and exploratory theatre which I certainly will look forward to.

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