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Published on Thursday, 12 July 2012

5 starsUnderground Venues, Theatre
6, 9, 11, 15 Jul, 9:00pm-10:00pm; 10 Jul, 10:30pm-11:30pm
Reviewed by Elijah James

Choreography, puppetry, intriguing props and dramatic mastery take the audience through an internal world and an external world, the universe of Bobby.  Inside Bobby himself, we find touching, individualized and personalized emotions, delivered with piquancy.  Outside lies a world of misery, which we navigate through puppetry, props and dancing starts-and-stops.  We never really escape from fear; it’s a cyclical and unified expression of a universal, perpetual struggle.

The dim ambience of The Pauper's Pit, in the appropriately-named Underground Venues, leads us down into a darkening world.  A maligned young child turns to crime, and the story of his institutionalization and judgment by society is treated through every facet of his inner world.  We see the inner machinations, or “through-lines” – desire, reason, free-will – all bustling together to labour for Bobby's emancipation.  I was immediately drawn in, and found it to be captivating. 

Despite the tragedy, there is buoyancy in the delivery of the play's comedy; the humour pokes fun at the idiosyncratic way that society can characterize people (when of course, it should be people who characterize society).  But the play does raise serious questions.  The reason and intellect of the protagonist, mediated by free-will, have to argue against a corporation of fear which has sent hope into redundancy; a sort-of socio-political commentary.  The all-male cast – Ben Moores, Tom Barry, Matthew Stead, Niven Ganner – present the audience with existential questions, such as: how do we choose to live?  Where is love?  Where is hope?

For me, it resonated with a personal chord.  Industrial soundscapes, like Nine Inch Nails (which the Just Add Water Theatre Company cite as a key influence), work well to convey panic; and there are some jarring moments in this piece.  We see the leitmotif of the four-member cast moving in unison, pushing, pulling and breathing, conveying Bobby’s pulsing heart.  The actors have synchronized these movements very effectively and it is a treat to see.

I wonder whether any of the audience felt that they questioned their own beliefs, as a result of this experience?  Each inner manifestation of emotion kneels before a big white cloud to listen to an authoritative and fatherly voice, Bobby's belief system, and we realize something about the seat of our own personal wisdom.  The memorable and sophisticated performance Bobby presents matches the extremely detailed and thorough plot.  The style of writing is exceptional, and as a concept it is very accessible.

Everything about this piece is worth seeing, and even more so because it is part of the Fringe’s New Writing strand.  The choreography is well-planned and well-performed, and works well to punctuate the narrative – as do the improvised and well-designed props and cue-cards written for the audience, which convey cityscapes and Bobby's personal desires.  It ends much as it begins, and serves as a reminder that we cannot live without hope.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.