‘The Things We Do / Behind the Scenes’ was commendable.
Documentary turned live theatrical performance, ‘The Things We Do / Behind the Scenes’, showcases emerging talent on one side, and explores the underlying thoughts of creatives in the process of preparing for a live show on the other.
Presented at Ad Astra in Fortitude Valley, the piece has been devised, and directed, by recent QUT graduate, John Caswell. As the programme outlines, Caswell wrote this thought-provoking new work over the span of two years, and Ad Astra has enabled his vision to find its place on the Brisbane stage.
‘The Things We Do / Behind the Scenes’ is a merger of two different stories in two contrasting mediums. The actual stage show follows the humorous experience of two workers as they try to save a failing low-end motel. In contrast, a documentary is screened in between scenes, which provides insight into the rehearsal period of that very stage show being presented. While both are fictitious, the mixed medium was a brave experiment. Drawing clever parallels, the overlaps in the plot, however, were not made explicit until the end, which did present as confusing for the audience.
Caswell’s strength as a director was shown in his ability to seamlessly transition entries and exits. Whilst the space was challenging, the movement between scenes appeared effortless. Caswell opted for a small, intimate space to set this piece, using simple furniture pieces to fill the ‘lobby’. A large television sat centre stage but never felt out of place, even when interrupting the live-action to play the documentary snippets.
The documentary aspect of the production was well-recorded and edited, using a range of film techniques to capture the energy of producing a show. The style was similar to that of ‘The Office’ due to its rawness and comedic undertones. Puddleduck Pictures, a project of Ethan Liboiron and Louella Baldwin, along with Technical Assistance by B’Elana Hill, delivered crisp cinematography and sharp cuts, which accurately depicted the positives and negatives of creating art.
As for performances, actors navigated two roles within the entire piece. Laney/Nicole, played by Mikayla Hosking, was a staple among the characters. Hosking, originally from Townsville, held the show together in a narrator-esque role. As Laney, she attempted to use a comedy style similar to Kat Dennings in ‘Two Broke Girls’ which was at times entertaining, but often fell short as a result of poor diction. As her off-stage character, Nicole, Hosking was far more relaxed and relatable compared to her on-stage counterpart.
Nathan Kennedy played Tom/Ben, characters very similar in their quirky and nerdy demeanours. With an extremely cute susception to romance, Tom/Ben were audience favourites, and Kennedy’s professionalism and stage presence made the character whole. Kennedy often used his entire body to display emotions, and was strategic with his comedic timing.
Arun Clarke portrayed Cameron/Andrew in this production. Clarke is a self-taught actor, but his acting style is clearly defined. Clarke was a natural fit for the part of the villainous play-boy and hypermasculine antagonist. As Cameron on-stage, the cruel motel owner, and Andrew off-stage, the jealous ex-boyfriend, Clarke created two distinct but similar characters.
Rounding out the cast, Amelia/Isabella was played by the talented Louella Baldwin, a recent graduate of QUT. Baldwin incorporated a level of confidence and complexity with both her on-stage and off-stage characters, creating strong independent female roles in the motel story and behind the scenes documentary. Credit to Baldwin, who was not just in the cast of ‘The Things We Do / Behind the Scenes’, but who also assisted with videography, photography and graphic design for the production.
Caswell should be commended on finding a way to merge two independent and well thought out stories. Whilst the two tales were presented in different mediums, and there were moments of confusion at first, the overall package was well crafted. The blend of film and live theatre was disconnecting but encouraged thought and reflection about relationships in the performing arts.
‘The Things We Do / Behind the Scenes’ performs until Friday, 6 September 2019 at Ad Astra in Fortitude Valley. For more information about the show and booking tickets, visit Ad Astra’s Website.