Sunday, October 5, 2014

Brother Daniel

Photo by Mark Banks

Collaborations Theatre Group presents BROTHER DANIEL, by James Balian at the Upstairs Tap Gallery, Darlinghurst. 24 Sept - 27 Sept. 30 Sept - 5 Oct.

BROTHER DANIEL is a new Australian play by James Balian. It is set in a prison in a totalitarian state. Brother Daniel was once a charismatic leader of a successful government coup. Now, years have passed, and he finds that his leadership qualities, his presence, his partisanship is required by the establishment he was once part responsible for setting up, as it is by the opposition, consisting of student rebels attempting their own coup. The play evolves into a moral set of interviews with various ''players' for Daniel's apparent commitment.

Travis Green, the Director tells us that the play talks of the choices that people make to get through life:
We live in a world where we are constantly asked to pick between right and wrong, between good and bad, and as much as we need that life could be that simple, it never is. Our actions define us, but the reasons for our actions are never clear, and extenuating circumstances can, and usually are, conflicting to our behaviours and beliefs. BROTHER DANIEL  ... explores the ambiguous nature of behaviour and the choices we make.
The writing, here, maintains one's focus, although, it does sometimes tend to 'novelistic' type speeches, that are not always clearly dramatic in 'play' form. Mr Balian has drawn some eight characters with varying personal and political needs. The actors are all evenly prepared and are splendidly cast with physical appearances and details that are decidedly realistic rather than 'designed'. The world, set and costumes, are believable (Set Design by Rachel Scane). It was impressive to see a company of eight actors to take a curtain call. - not the usual three or four who may have doubled other roles as well - the individuality of each of the performers, no matter the size of their stage responsibility, added an absorbing veracity to the unfolding of the debates: Vincent Andriano, David Attrill, Mel Dodge, Jeannie Gee, Adam Hatzimanolis, Errol Henderson, Richard Hilliar, and Naomi Livingstone.

There is a strong moral purpose to the writing, and that it desires, consistently, to explore philosophic and moral dilemma and the frailties of the human animal in motivation in survival mode, is a welcome respite from the usual sexploitation of the personal, as the spine to this work, unlike a lot of other Australian work that is given on our stages. It respects our intelligence - that we have some!

Interesting, gently absorbing, if not, riveting work.

Much like my response to the work of the recent production of Rajiv's Joseph's GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES, one is grateful that the Tap Gallery exists as an affordable and practical space for these artists to produce work in Sydney. The Tap gallery is a unique (in more ways than one, I admit) but a wholly necessary space for the development of new work and alternate workers, from the mainstreams of Sydney practice: Writers, Actors and Directors.

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