‘Genesis’ was a supernova.
Brisbane is slowly but surely garnering a reputation for producing new and exciting theatre that can compete against the “bigs”. This coincides with a boom in our film industry, and a thriving community and independent theatre scene determined to no longer lose their key players to other cities.
It was with hushed enthusiasm, then, that the audience gathered at Metro Arts’ Lumen Room on a Thursday night for the opening of William Hinz’s exciting new work, ‘Genesis’. Boldly staged by A Very Theatre Company, as part of their 2019 indie season. Hinz, a great user of metaphor, set his play against a canopy of subtly shifting stars to look through the eyes of a young couple mindfully exploring themes of religion, pop culture, relationships, sexuality, and sacrifice.
All of the action is set on a private mountaintop hideaway overlooking a small country town. The play starts after a funeral has drawn Paul and Izzy back into town. Through a tightly choreographed sequence of flashbacks, we bear witness as they exchange ideas, grow towards adulthood, and test each other’s boundaries. It is on this mountaintop that we watch them fall in love. We are with them as they feel all the joy and pain that love can bring with it.
Director Michael Mandalios keeps a tight rein on his cast, their movements are sharp and precise during transitions. With the actors never leaving the space, the audience never gets to take a breath.feeling suspended in the story for a full hour, only resurfacing as the house lights come back on. The simple costume adjustments as the scenes move from primary school to post-funeral mid-twenty-something adults were well thought through, freeing the actors to do a lot of the heavy lifting with characterisation.
Clever use of the small space, and intelligent set design by Anna Straker, combines with shrewd light and sound by Ross Ritchie and Grace Royle respectively, really encapsulating this world which feels sparse and isolated. It becomes a world set apart, perfect for exploration and escape, providing the perfect blank canvas for the actors to play on.
As Izzy, Ashleigh Denning was a force of nature. Sarcastic, kind, and always just a little bit righteous, she radiates energy and draws audiences into her universe with a warm laugh and winning smile. Denning skillfully captures a beautiful character arc as her faith begins to wane, and her need to find comfort and love elsewhere takes precedence. Denning should be commended for her attention to detail for bringing Izzy to life, and letting a grounded realism through as the play came it’s almost inevitable conclusion.
The yin to Denning’s yang, Jack McGirr as Paul was steadfast and proud, stubborn, funny, and thoroughly charming. He manages to walk the fine line between obnoxiously driven and lovingly playful with flair, giving Paul such depth during his internal struggles that it is hard not to sympathise with him, even if you don’t agree with his approach. The most heartbreaking part is the childlike innocence of his final moment, his last line, about non-binary stars and their forever orbit that breaks like a wave over the audience, leaving them sitting in reflective, grieving, silence.
It is heartwarming to see such a turnout for the opening of a quiet indie production. It is something we need to see much more of in Brisbane and with work of the calibre of ‘Genesis’, no doubt we will. This was a night at the theatre that will linger in the heart long after the house lights came up.
‘Genesis’ is playing at The Lumen Room until May 4, 2019. For ticketing information go to www.trybooking.com.au/bcark.