‘In Bloom’ was alternative.
Art, sex, and nature were the driving concepts of Underground Production’s most recent and notably alternative production, ‘In Bloom’. Housed in the other-worldly Mappins Nursery and Aquarium, ‘In Bloom’ shocked, informed and intrigued the intimate gathering on their opening night performance. The show traversed topics from the beauty of climbing trees and writing poetry, to having sex in a public park and the things that ‘turn you on’. ‘In Bloom’ was brave in its content and, while some sections may have made audiences a little uncomfortable, the show certainly left its viewers with something to think about.
‘In Bloom’ was a walk-through style performance with monologues and dialogue occurring at various locations all over Mappins Nursery and Aquarium. The venue, just off Montague Road, was unquestionably where this show belonged. While the traffic noise made it difficult to hear actors at times, the nursery really was a world of its own, away from the hustle and bustle of West End. Nothing at the venue was changed for this performance, it was simply a working nursery and shop which audiences members were free to roam before the show began. We were then led through the foliage into another section of the Nursery where all five young actors were introduced. “It’s just us and the trees,” they said and this certainly was the case.
Throughout the one-act show, each actor told stories submitted by the public on the topics of art, sex and nature while simultaneously leading audiences through the venue. At times it was unclear where the audience was meant to go and we were left shuffling along as the actors moved amongst us. This style of theatre, however, was effective for the content and the awkward moments will likely diminish as the season progresses.
There was nowhere to hide as an audience member and, while there was a separation between ‘performance space’ and ‘watching space’, the lines were regularly blurred. As the audience moved through the nursery, the actors would appear to tell their story. It was clear a lot of thought had gone into mapping out these movements in a way that left audiences unaware of the transitions. While this convention was used fairly effectively, it may have been interesting to see more theatrical elements within the production.
At times the show felt a little stilted, as both audiences and actors didn’t have the motivation to move. While it was interesting to explore the nursery, the show may have been more cohesive if monologues and stories flowed into each other and the space was used as a set as opposed to a thematic backdrop. It would have been nice to see actors interacting with their space a bit more and finding alternative ways to use the elements at their disposal.
The five actors gave credit to the inspiring stories adapted by co-creators Elizabeth Elliott Haynes and Branagh McDermott. Some sections were more effective than others and there was a distinct difference between each writer’s ‘style’. If it was a stylistic choice to make the monologues differ then it may have been more effective to make the decision bold and notable.
Fifi Edwards and Tiahne O’Brien were the standout performers of the night. They never missed a beat, their pacing was measured and their emotional intent was always present. While all five ladies delivered committed performances, the dialogue and prose sometimes felt unnatural. Monologues can be daunting for any actor, especially in an environment like this, where there is nowhere to hide. Additionally, some of the sections delivered could have used some further workshopping to ensure the words on the page became the actors’ stories.
Anywhere Festival is a fantastic platform for emerging actors, writers and producers to trial work and present their pieces in a safe and supportive environment. For the first run of a new performance work, the primarily UQ university student group did a commendable job. It was clear the production was a conglomerate of talents from emerging artists and that every moment had passion and love poured into it. The future of Brisbane theatre is certainly in good hands with these young creatives, who aren’t afraid to try something a little different.
For more information about Anywhere Festival’s 2019 Season head over to https://anywhere.is/.