Monday, September 20, 2010
Stories from the 428
The Sydney Fringe 2010 presents Stories from the 428 at Sidetrack Theatre, Addison Rd Marrickville.
Sydney at the moment is awash with theatrical activity. The Sydney Fringe has curated a robust and busting program of performances around the city. There is too much to see alongside the regular ‘stuff’ and the responsibilities of just making a living. However, yesterday having a Book Club Meeting at the Addison Street Sunday Markets was a treat for us all, and I noticed that Stories from the 428 had a 2pm matinee and I could manage it between a film date at The Randwick Ritz – THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED - worth catching, especially if you have aspirations to be a film maker.
Stories from the 428 is a collection of small anecdotal observations in short play/sketch form, that have been curated from an original commission and season earlier in the year. Augusta Supple was the engineering spirit about the original and now this resultant presentation. A collection of writers rode the 428 bus from Circular Quay to Marrickville/Canterbury in February, and then “within 24 hours they had written scenes, stories, lists and even a song reflecting their experience on the bus”. Ms Supple goes on to say, “Playwrights are our historians, notating and reflecting on who we are here and now. Stories from 428 is a love letter (sometimes tender, sometimes exercising tough love, sometimes awkwardly hilarious) celebrating the bus route and the people who travel on it, our neighbours, our community”. Ten writers, six directors, fourteen actors (on my afternoon), and technical crew of seven have collaborated for this performance – a veritable miracle of organisation, to say the least.
Most of the writing is warm and reflects, it seems, the experience of public transport on this route, for there were many responses of familiar identification from the audience- laughter and wishful willing of ‘soap-opera romances’ to resolve gorgeously. The short plays/sketches are mostly ’cute’ and given the form, I guess, not very challenging: depth of writing or subject matter. Most of the experiences of the matinee were affirming and relatively superficial observations. We left the theatre as we entered it, relaxed and comfortable. Not much meat, lots and lots of gravy. The few pieces that seemed to have “meat”: Bethlehem (Kit Brookman) – a serious rumination on the peculiar city-sisterhood relationship and differences between Marrickville and Bethlehem, and the anarchic sketch of a human bomb on the bus, NO RIDES LEFT (Jasper Marlow), that book end the spoken texts, lost impact with low voltage performance or misguided direction choices. In fact it was in the acting and direction that one felt there was a lack of real care or skill or time in the embodying of the writing.
A pleasant time filler and “…so parochial” as I heard one audience member declare, as he left.
I remember reading the anarchic pleasure and technique that Joe Orton (ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE, LOOT, WHAT THE BUTLER SAW etc) used to take in witnessing conversations on the local London bus routes and re-organising them into trenchant dialogue for his revolutionary output. How one longed for some of that writer’s world view and courage, even re-organising wit, in this afternoon, to balance the ‘Aunt Edna ‘ feel of most of the writing. Opportunities missed or just a reflection of the comfortable lives of these young people, writers?
In fact, after the performance, I caught the 3.43pm 428 Circular Quay back to the city and witnessed a great argument between two sets of passengers just as the bus reached Enmore Road. It was still going through King Street to the Broadway stop - on and off. One set, middle aged, seemingly in response to the other set, elderly women, about the need for human compassion in the world - it became quite thrillingly heated and public.
Life, then, was more challenging than this Art. If only the art at Sidetrack Theatre reflected some of the passion of this vignette of life on the 428 bus!