A Tasting[s ‘18] of Raw Emotion

The seven-course dinner that was Tastings ’18 Group A brought together seemingly heavy subject matters, usually hidden by the mundanity of the everyday, and emphasised their immense weight. Five stand-alone performances stripped away their existential layers and provided us with a fleeting but intimate glimpse of bare emotion and experience. All seven performances in Tastings reflected different ends of the social and cultural spectrum – making it relatable whilst unveiling perspectives that we or the people around us deal with on daily basis.

The show started with Eleven Hours in Language by Agatha Moar, following eleven hours in a bedroom with a heterosexual couple. Although well written, it seemed as though the performance lacked timing and tension leaving awkward, unrewarded gaps between dialogue and movement. Through reflecting the seemingly mundane, the play was sending a simple message that we tend to overlook: the beauty of taking every day as it comes, no matter how imperfect life is – something we tend to underestimate.

Translucent shifted Tastings into high octane, with Cindy Jiang performing a series of stand-alone monologues based on her personal experiences of what it’s like to be a Chinese person in modern Australia. Topical and familiar, Jiang put emotions into poetic imagery, painting a beautiful picture of the ugly reality surrounding her identity and cultural stamp. Carrying the conflict of being an insider, yet an outsider, Jiang‘s spoken word performance was so breath-taking that one did not even realise the absence of other performers, set or choreography. Translucentwas so intimate and exposing that, at times, it felt like I should look away out of respect.

Spilt Milk by Ellie Woodstook on a fusion of feminine explosion in all its right. With more than a spoonful of cereal to offer (if ya know, ya know), the performance was set up like an improv circle, with a prompt word acted out by duos or singles of an all-female cast. It was refreshing to see realistic experiences surrounding the simplicities and complexities of female life. Filled with primal, honest and oh-my-god-did-she-just-down-a-whole-bowl-of-cereal-down-her-shirt moments, this performance switched between fun and quirky flashes, and serious and sensitive ones questioning and revealing ideas of consent, sexuality and the implications of what it really means to be a female.

Lucy Holz’s Our Father had the makings and elements of traditional theatre. With a pretty dormant plot, the play’s strength was in its complex characters and acting. The fact that we had built up an image of the central character – the father – without his physical presence, speaks in volumes of the commendable direction, dialogue and script showcasing the all-too-familiar but implicit convoluted domestic lives we lead, which ultimately shape our character and personality. A quarter of an hour was too short to explore these themes, but Our Father provided a transient reel, nevertheless.

The show finished with a shorter look inside mental and physical illnesses in Where Is The Cockroach by Jacinta Dowe, which allowed us to play the role of a counsellor for ten minutes. Although the theme and acting was praiseworthy, it had a lot of potential that was not explored. I do believe it could have been lengthier, with punchier dialogue, bringing more weight and urgency to the aspects of disability that are often ignored and underestimated by society.

The set design and strong, blueish, dark lighting was shared by all the groups, and to see them used so vastly and distinguishably brought about a sense of togetherness and really answered the question of ‘how many set designs can you make with six white blocks?’, if it’s ever crossed your mind.

The only issue with the show as a whole was the order of the performances. Although individually performed and directed, the show ended quite abruptly and disrupted the overall flow. Regardless, all the performances in Tastings were exemplary in their acting and unique themes, giving us a small but convincing ‘taste’ of the emotions and experiences of people like our friends, family and just strangers you stand with at the pedestrian crossing.

Sakina Aliakbar

Tastings ’18 ran from the 22nd-25th of August at the Guild Theatre.

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