Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Theatre by Frank McKone: Ich Bin Faust written and directed by Joe Woodward

Ich Bin Faust written and directed by Joe Woodward, Coordinator of Creative Arts and Theatre, Daramalan College, Canberra.  Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, April 6-10, 2010, 8pm.

The first purpose of this production is to extend the theatre experience of a group of senior secondary students who last year presented a group devised performance based on their studies of the Faust story, mainly derived from Marlowe and Goethe.

This script, written by Woodward but with considerable workshop input from his students, is also intended to develop the students’ thinking about the relevance of the Faustian theme to present day life.  The plot follows what happens to a drama group who previously worked on a piece about Faust, starting from the cast party, reaching the end of their schooling and meeting up again four years later.  Characters in this story parallel characters in the Faustian dramas.  Is it possible not to sell one’s soul to the devil in the modern world of “I am”?

I guess there is also a desire to demonstrate what the students can do theatrically, and raise issues about the transition into adulthood for an audience of parents and student peers.

It’s not my place to write competitive reviews of individual performances, but it is fair to say that the group standard was very much what I would expect from a seriously committed Year 12 drama class.  I certainly saw some potential tertiary theatre studies students.

It took me quite some time to feel involved in the drama, so I have some doubts about the script writing.  It is true that the characters begin as youngish, a bit immature, almost “typical” dramaheads and grow into young adults, but the slow pace and background broken-up video images and sound track, combined with short duo scenes interspersed with drama workshoppy group movement segments made it difficult for me to find focus in the first half.  Only in the more substantial mother-daughter scene did things start to fall into place, and in the later sections the metaphorical use of masks and devil characters worked effectively, reaching a strong emotional ending which made the ethic of being principled in life rather than self-indulgent come to the fore.

As an educational exercise, the work is obviously well worthwhile.  Using the Large Hadron Collider as a focus for the range of questions around science and religion, life and death, and ethical principles certainly works for young people just reaching adulthood, as they search to establish their own identities and philosophies to carry them through an uncertain future.  The script, in a nice piece of irony, was written before the Collider actually proved to work, only a few days ago, without causing us all to be sucked into a black hole.