Monday, July 22, 2013

I'm Your Man

Presented by Performance Space and Mobile States: I'M YOUR MAN at Carriageworks. A Belvoir production, created by Roslyn Oades.

I'M YOUR MAN Created and Directed by Roslyn Oades, is the final part of a headphone-verbatim trilogy, STORIES OF LOVE AND HATE and FAST CARS AND TRACTOR ENGINES, being the predecessors. This work explores the world of a boxing gym. Ms Oades has set out to investigate courage within the context of specific sociopolitical worlds, and even the titles of the previous work gives you some perspective of the fields of play she has revealed - all to critical success.

The specific world of this work began to take form for Ms Oades, some ten years ago in an East London gym, and, later, whilst working with her longtime collaborator, Mohammed Ahmed, here in Bankstown, Sydney (where this work was first developed at BYDS), she discovered his passion for boxing. In 2010 a local featherweight fighter, Billy 'The Kid' Dib, co-operated by allowing Ms Oades' team to follow him over an 18-month period. During this period a world of a dedicated, passionate kind revealed itself in the lives of, mostly, working class aspirants, who trained relentlessly with a dream to achieve something for themselves, their fans, and, as they succeeded, the bigger community - "the sounds, the rhythms, the discipline, the community" of the boxing gym became a wonder. In all, some seven professional boxers (Legends) tell their stories: Billy 'The Kid' Dib, Wale "Lucky Boy' Omotoso, Gus Mercurio, Jeff Fenech - 'The Marrickville Mauler', Tony Mundine and Wally Carr and CJ, the original London inspiration for Ms Oades.

The headphone-verbatim technique, used by the company, is a process that Ms Oades has employed since 2001. Interviewing her subjects on tape over a long period, the audio-script is configured (Script Dramaturg, Raimondo Cortese) and, then the actors, wearing headphones are prompted by the actual voices of their character (Sound Designer, Bob Scott). So, not only do the actors speak the actual vocabulary of the source material, they also have the unique dialect and quality of the speech pattern of each individual: thought hesitations, emphasis, pitch, pace and volume, etc. Instead of the written syntax, that any good author employs to reveal the character on the page - sadly (criminally) often ignored or not acknowledged by some actors - these actors, using this technique, have aural cuing for the oral delivery, which reveals the character in wonderful detail. Add the observed physical life related to activity etc and a kind of persuasive truth appears. It is a fascinating experience, and such is the comfort of familiarity that the performers have in this production, that the headphones 'disappear' as part of the by-product of our belief we can endow them with. Like the puppets in WARHORSE, the mechanics and accoutrements of the theatrical 'conjuring' becomes 'invisible' (this technique was seen last year during the Parramasala Festival in a work THE TROUBLE WITH ASIAN MEN presented by a visiting British Company, Tamasha, as well).

The performers, Mohammed Ahmad, Billy McPherson, Katia Molino, Justin Rosniak and John Shrimpton are extremely adept in the translations of character, to stage character. The production is set in a wonderfully realistic neighbourhood-like boxing gym (Neil Simpson - Set and Lighting Design), and on entering the theatre the whiff of 'Dencorub' helps one, sensorily, locate oneself in this world immediately. The cluttered, archetypal set dressing, a bonus for those of us who have ever participated in those worlds - posters and all. On our arrival, in the theatre space, 'circuit' training is in action, and throughout the entire performance these actors are put through a very exhausting routine, and one thing for sure, these actors will be fit from their daily performance 'workout'.

One leaves the theatre with an admiration for the characters and the sincerity of their aspirations and the connections that they have forged within the worlds they exist in. One is also impressed by the authenticity of the performers in their creative tasks, even if I wished there were more moments of stillness made by the director, to allow us to endow the characters with their optimistic, aspirational "lower depths", within their range of 'rascality' and gentle dignity. One caught it fleetingly and wished for more opportunity to observe quietly "the vulnerability of these big-hearted warriors: inspiring individuals who burn bright and fall hard." It is a world not often caught in the theatre and it is moving to see it treated by Ms Oades and her collaborators with such respect and admiration, for us.

I'M YOUR MAN is on a tour made possible by Performing Lines for Mobile States. It is travelling to Perth, Mandurah, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin, Brisbane, Melbourne, Wodonga and finally, back in Sydney, at Parramatta.

Worth catching. Encourage your friends, elsewhere, not to miss it.

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