From the minute the audience walked into the Guild Theatre, DisColourNation’s ‘The Unbearable Whiteness of Being’ made an impact. Each audience member was stopped and asked if they identified as a person of colour. Those who said yes got a Freddo chocolate; the rest sat down empty handed. It was clever, allowing the audience to experience the marginalisation that was explored throughout the piece. Without explicitly stating it, the piece stuck very much to the culture of Melbourne University, exploring the limits POC face in student theatre and the forms of racism that still exist within our generation. Switching between musical numbers and monologues, the ‘Unbearable Whiteness of Being’ was funny in its delivery, and got a lot of laughs. But at the same time it was very much a serious piece, in no way subtle with its impact, revealing that our student culture is not as inclusive as we’d like to believe. Undoubtedly a thought-provoking and important piece of theatre.
‘Voices Like Birds Calling’ was a beautifully original nod to Beckett. The absurdist piece created that sense of a step out from reality through the manipulation of language. It was very much a sensory experience that relied on sound, aided by the limited use of lighting, with the stage mostly in darkness. The words and phrases didn’t offer a definitive narrative, but suggested the scenario of two people in a cave having a conversation. The idea of loneliness wasn’t only explored thematically, but reflected in the blocking with the three actors, Joshua Lynzaat, Dana McMillan and Charlotte Salusinszky, working in isolation, with Salusinszky only featuring as an offstage voice. Although this was an interesting element, it seemed to dominate the performance. The most impressive moment of the piece was when the lighting illuminated Lynzaat, casting a large shadow on the wall behind him. This paired with the repetition of words like ‘terrible’ and ‘awful’, which grew more emotionally charged as his performance went on, was incredibly engaging. The piece was fresh and original, but I think it could have been a little bolder, and not held back from exploring more with the lighting and the actors’ delivery.
‘Songs for Ghosts’ was completely different from any of the other pieces of the night. Just Tzeyi Koay with her guitar, performing original music, it made Tastings a forum for expression rather than a theatrical showcase. Koay’s songs in themselves were moving and the lyrics poetic, but were elevated to another level by her raw and powerful voice. Koay introduced herself and gave us a bit of context for the first song, sharing with the audience that she had written it when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. This detail made the experience even more profound, and I wished that we had gotten to know the context for her second song. Her last number was an acapella rendition of House of the Rising Sun, which, although beautiful, broke away from the intimate and personal tone of her original songs. Though a musical performance, a bit of direction would have gone a long way in ‘Songs For Ghosts’, simply to curate the transition between songs and to give the audience more insight into them.
UMSU Creative Arts Office’s Tastings ran from September 8th-10th in the Guild Theatre.