Written and directed by Joachim Matschoss. Performed by Isabel Knight, Amalia Krueger, Sasha Leong, Isabella Anderson, Giacinta Squires, Nikki Green, Verity Wood, Breanna Milliken, Florensia Andarini. Lighting design by Shane Grant. Movement direction by Nikki Green. Sound design/Music by Michelle Eddington. Visual design by Philip Roberts. Stage Management/ Production assistance by Ben Jameison. Back Yard Theatre Ensemble. Midsumma Festival. La Mama Theatre January 17-25 2023.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
It has been some years since I have been to La Mama , Melbourne’s iconic home of theatrical experimentation and creative opportunity. Established in 1957 by the visionary Betty Burstall and after her continued under the artistic leadership of the recently retired Liz Jones, La Mama has been a lighthouse for independent theatre, theatrical innovation and a launching pad for emerging directors, actors and theatre workers. The theatre has been restored since a devastating fire some years ago threatened its closure. It remains a very small space and its current production, Shadowfall, written and directed by prolific playwright, poet, director and producer Joachim Mattschoss was played with about twenty people on either side of a traverse staging. This is intimate theatre at its most involving and engaging when directed with such sensibility and performed with such intensity and intelligence as in this Midsumma Festival production.
|Isabel Knight as Jazz in Shadowfall
The final image is one of hopelessness and submission as Jazz climbs the stairs in the theatre towards the top of the building, lured by the image of the dancer on the roof. Matschoss offers a bleak aspect of the devastating impact of tortured mental health and domestic violence. His cast respond with visually striking physical theatre, a choreographed dance of shared suffering. Shadowfall appears to offer little hope until a feather floats down from high above, a symbol of transformation, promising hope.
|Nikki Green as the Dancer in Shadowfall
Matschoss’s text is at times elusive and the symbols and poetic metaphors invite a probing and curious interpretation. Nikki Green’s movement direction is expressive and specific . Shadowfall has the impression of having been created from workshop. This gives the production a feeling of collaborative commitment. The elements of performance, song, dance and visuals lend it a unity that punctuates its themes and message with physical and intellectual effect.
|Florensia Andarini as The Singer in Shadowfall
True to La Mama’s mission, Shadowfall satisfied my interest in experimental, original and independent work that has something to say and says it in an entertaining and intellectually challenging theatrical work.
Photos by Brendan Bonsack