The Commune is the latest offering by Australian playwright, Gabriel Bergmoser. Winner of the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Award for television scriptwriting and author of the young adult novel Boone Shepard, Bergmoser already has a long list of play credits to his name.
The Commune tells the story of Joe, who arrives back at his childhood home to attend the funeral of his mother. However, this is no ordinary homecoming. Joe was raised in a commune; a place with its own morals and laws. Joe has no idea how his mother died and his father, River, won’t tell him what happened. It is a riveting story that had the audience on opening night lingering in their seats well after the play had ended, contemplating what they had just witnessed.
The success of The Commune is a combination of good writing, intelligent direction and superb acting.
Bergmoser has written a compelling tale, but it is also what he has not written that had the audience captivated. The opening minutes of the play involve no dialogue, but manage to convey considerable emotion and intrigue. There are several other powerful, no-spoken moments in the play, but I don’t want to spoil the impact by exploring them here. Despite being a one act play, Bergmoser has packed a considerable wealth of material to analyse and explore.
Showing a mature restraint and intelligent consideration, director Ashley Tardy has allowed these unspoken sections of the script to play out appropriately, with enough time allowed to build the tension. So much was conveyed in moments where no words were spoken. The fight scene was disturbingly real and somewhat confronting to watch. The contrasting personalities of the members of the commune to those from the outside world was evident from the moment they walked on stage.
A superb cast brings this chilling tale to life and their wealth of experience is evident.
Gregory Caine has appeared in a number of plays by Bitten Productions, yet has the ability to take on each new character without any hint of the previous ones. Cain is outstanding in the role of River. Before a word had even been spoken in the opening minutes of the play, he had delivered such emotion and had tears welling in his eyes, that the audience was well and truly connected to his character.
Kashmir Sinnamon gives a strong performance as Joe, the prodigal son who has returned home to attend his mother’s funeral. His enthusiastic detailing of what life is like in the outside world is quite thought-provoking.
Alicia Beckhurst is perfect as Joe’s girlfriend, Violet, with a naïve enthusiasm to embrace the friendliness of the commune.
Troy Larkin is convincing as Leaf, the childhood friend of Joe: the strong and steadfast leader who is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his chosen way of life.
Rounding out the cast is Angelique Malcolm as Moon, the spiritual leader of the commune, believably manipulative and not to be trusted.
Performed in the intimate presentation space of Voltaire in North Melbourne, the only limitation is the size of the room. While the steps inside the performance space are used to full effect to create the sense of a two storey cabin, the limited space meant some action ended up taking place behind the front rows of the audience, despite the angled seating. It would be interesting to see this play on a larger stage with a purpose built set as the performances were certainly worthy of any large professional theatre company.
The Commune is a gripping and chilling tale that will leave you gasping, applauding and deep in thought. Worth a look.
The Commune is playing until Saturday 23rd November.