THIS, THIS IS MINE - MELBOURNE
THIS, THIS IS MINE, The Corinthian Collective performing in a house in Coburg, Fitzroy North and Melbourne CBD until 29 April 2017. Photography by Sarah Walker and Nick McKinlay Photography, above - Matilda Ridgway; below - Charles Wu
Independent theatre comes from a desire of creative folk to do more than mainstream theatre is offering, that is, to continue working. This, This is Mine written and directed by Duncan Ragg is more than “shed” theatre. The creative team at the Corinthianfoodstore wanted people to not only see their play but to have a collective, community experience – a salon; a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host (Ragg is that and more). The true essence of a salon is to discuss, debate and increase knowledge of the participants through conversation. So, sets the scene for this piece.
Performed in people’s houses or flats around town with invited guests, each performance differs – it has to. I was invited to the Coburg performance. Arriving at dusk and ushered down the side of a house to a backyard set up with seats and blankets, a bar, music and The Big Deep projected onto the shed in the background, the evening star looming; Melbourne’s autumn weather being kind. Ragg welcomes everyone with a jollity and conviction that is compelling. The actors mill and chat. Charles Wu gave us a few songs. The audience members – predictably, sweetly – stick to their groups.
I wondered how it was going to unfold. Wu then morphed into Lester, still with guitar in hand singing at a funeral with the evening star as his spotlight. Eva (Matilda Ridgway) joining him for a number and, unable to continue, runs out Lester follows… We (the audience) are then led by torchlight inside to a room that has been set up “theatre style”; comfy chairs, hard chairs, stools – tall people to the back – is the directive from Ragg. The show has begun.
The set (Isabella Andronos & Michael Hili) is a room in a house that has been left to Eva by her father (it was his funeral). There are boxes strewn about and due to a storm, no lights. The actors use torches as their lighting, putting them in the spotlight to be seen but also to emphasise an uneasiness between them. Eva trips around looking for a beer, obviously upset by the passing of her father when Lester bursts in through the window. They are old school friends: Lester, Eva and Arc (whom you don’t see but is integral to the relationship).
It is a philosophical and political piece that delves into the psyche of the individuals. Naturalism has a cadence that takes a while for the ear catch up to. The dialogue at times fast and furious then settling, allowing the audience to catch its breath or indeed to breathe as the characters haggle and argue and hate and love and laugh and cry. A relationship that was or has become a racket. They are a crutch to one another – is it healthy? Is it a co-dependence? Ragg’s writing and the rhythm are reminiscent of Gunter Grass.
Written for Ridgway, she excels as Eva, we feel her pain. She handles getting slightly drunk in a way that doesn’t impede. Wu is equally excellent (he is also the co-artistic director of the collective and was sound designer for this production). Their final scene sees Eva hitting Les, he has over-stepped the mark. She leaves, but returns…they are and will continue to be unresolved.
Playing in different spaces around the city will change the way the actors and the play unfolds and how they act and react, but what won’t change is the essence of the piece which combines the philosophical nature of how thoughts impact and the political nature of our actions. At the end of the show, the audience are asked to stay and talk, have a drink and break bread together, listen to music. I didn’t stay. On reflection perhaps I needed to, to complete the salon experience.
Just because someone stood on this land and said, this is mine and everyone else was fool enough to believe him. You’re just a hunk of meat with a flag. Anytime I like I can step over there and carve you up and take what you got and there’s nothing you can do to stop me. You’re soft. You break. None of your talk can stop that…
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