ALPHA caresses the ears, awakens the eyes, and expands the mind. It is a truly exquisite fringe festival gem, written and performed by two masters of the English language and the human body. Sebastian Robinson and Tamara Natt have created a poignant and artistic expository of love, sexuality, societal and personal expectations and death, without succumbing to the more and more common (especially at fringe time) pretentious didactic presentation of the human condition.
An intimate audience is treated to an exploration through vignettes of the lives of two queer individuals and their roles within society. Natt’s opening movement sequence is transfixing, and her vocal prowess is grand and engaging. Robinson demonstrates an amazing understanding of empathy evocation, with a great dynamic range that keeps the audience alert. Their bodies interact superbly and their connection and trust is evidently very strong. Multiple character transformations and short vignettes make it difficult to pinpoint identity of the characters, perhaps to mirror the notion that the queer culture is difficult to define and impossible to pin down. Just as the audience has to decide how they will interpret the plight of these two individuals, those in the queer community have to decide how to interpret their sexuality within a world of hetero-normativity.
Never before have I seen language used so effectively on stage. Each word falls perfectly into place, sculpted with fine detail, filling the rather empty space with colour and energy. I honestly felt the language replace the need for physical props or scenery, something we often strive for in theory, but to experience it in practice is quite remarkable. La Mama was transformed and transported with each verse. Imagery of this kind creates an immediate connection with the audience. We are spellbound- hanging on each quip, rhyme and melody. Add to this a phenomenal live sound design by Milly O’Sullivan, who herself has a stunning voice, and you’ve got a result which just feels right. Hilarious Delta Goodrem and Oprah Parodies, minimalist sound scapes and silk-like electric guitar melodies tie together a somewhat fragmentary show.
The actors have a fresh and youthful energy enhanced by the poetic beat style rhythm, which they use to build tension and contrast the more melancholy themes with moments of comedy. At times the minor climactic moments felt rushed and slightly contrived. Each vignette challenges or exposes an intuition and at times the fast pace of the transitions can be overwhelming. An extra pause here and there to let each scene really sink in may have ensured that no moment was lost.
Dressed in sporty blacks the actors explore their physical form throughout the space. The stairs at the back are used to create wonderful levels and a beautiful symbolic ‘burning.’ Their attire perhaps represents the race that is life, however against such a rich backdrop of thematic exploration, I feel that there is more potential to manipulate costume.
Nick Moloney’s simple lighting design sings along with the cast, creating shadows and delicately framing each episodic scene. Snap lighting changes are perfectly timed. The lighting, sound and the actors work with an amazing synchronicity. Whilst there were some opening night jitters and stumbles, this simply reminded me that behind the poetry and non-naturalism, I was watching the journey of two humans. ALPHA combines layers of symbolic language and movement with direct honesty. It seems to avoid the ‘hunt for meaning’ that audiences are often lured in to with avant-garde theatre. Robinson and Natt leave you feeling satisfied, informed and enlightened. Their construction seems aware that deep and meaningful is not the be-all and end-all, but jam-packs 50 minutes with thought provoking, and genuinely enjoyable theatre.
ALPHA, BETA, CHARLE, DELTA
It’s easy as 1, 2, 3… 4
So go and discover the theatrical Alpha state. You may not find anything “Beta” this Fringe.