someone else’s dream

keith gallasch on janie gibson’s the whale chorus

Alex Grady, Matthew Prest, The Whale Chorus

Alex Grady, Matthew Prest, The Whale Chorus

JANIE GIBSON’S THE WHALE CHORUS IS MYSTERIOUS AND CHAOTIC, A DREAM MUTATING INTO NIGHTMARE AMBIGUOUSLY HOSTED BY A YOUNG WOMAN (GIBSON) IN DARK WEIMAR CABARET PERSONA, ACCENT AND ALL, A SET OF TRULY EERIE TALES AND, IN THE CLIMAX, SPECTACULARLY STAGED SUPERNATURAL POWERS OUT OF THE MATRIX AND THE RING CYCLE.

Two competitive young men (Matthew Prest, Alex Grady) prance about like centaurs, revealing their love-lorn inner states via intensely delivered pop songs; two women (Phoebe Torzillo, XX) engage in more gnomic behaviour, sometimes gratingly cute but also tinged with dark prophecy.

Like the vigorous, ambitious ensemble dancing, the production constantly threatens to fall apart. Save for Gibson’s disturbing, blackly comic tales the writing is thin, the other female roles limited and the production’s grand symbolism opaque.

As a director Gibson is courageous, her vision reminiscent of Melbourne playwright Lally Katz’s anarchic theatrical magic but, unfortunately, there’s little sense of The Whale Chorus being through-written. Nevertheless the production proved oddly memorable. Alex Grady is a subtle presence, Gibson has a magnetic, quiet intensity, and Prest a vibrant nervous energy. Above all it was exhilarating to see a young ensemble performing with total commitment.

The Whale Chorus, director Janie Gibson, performers Alex Grady, Matthew Prest, Phoebe Torzillo, XX, Janie Gibson, sound James Brown, costumes Lucy Thornett, magic maker Michaela Gleave, lighting designer Frank Malnoo; PACT Youth Theatre, Sydney, Feb 28-March 9

RealTime issue #84 April-May 2008 pg. 36

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2008