‘MAZE’ was unique.
The thing about mazes is that they are notoriously difficult to navigate your way through. They look awesome but are designed to misdirect, confuse and have the occasional dead end. There is a beauty in that. ‘Maze’, which had its world premiere at the Brisbane Powerhouse in September, shares that beauty but also the confusion.
It was a stunning journey in no small part because the Naughty Corner Collective work was fostered by under the Dead Puppet Society (DPS) Academy program. No-one does visual story telling quite like DPS and the adaptation of the Greek Myth of the Minotaur was perfectly suited to the puppetry and presence DPS can bring to the table.
The visual components were undeniably well considered and well executed. Director Jess Bunz and movement choreographer Liesel Zink turned the Underground Theatre at The Brisbane Powerhouse into a cornucopia of movement and light. Constantly moving through the space, the ensemble transformed from Greek citizens to creatures of the dark. Ben Mills’ lighting design and Tom Collins’ sound design are also worth mentioning. The crew and their aesthetic unity created a world that was three dimensional, unique and worthy of acclaim.
Sadly however, no amount of amazing visuals can make up for a lacklustre script. For a new company this work was extremely ambitious, perhaps to a fault with the visual excellence potentially coming at the cost of the script development time. At times this led to the story feeling more like a first draft and rather unfinished. Credited to Bianca Bality with Joe Wilson, the script relied heavily on shifting quickly from metaphoric and literal language and as such was often hard to keep up. The script would also jump back and forward in time seemingly at random for no good reason. While there is nothing wrong with non-linear storytelling if you don’t have a good reason for it can often seem needlessly confusing, much like a maze. It seemed like The Naughty Corner Collective decided that they wanted to tell a non-linear story because they could but didn’t once stop to ask if they should.
Stuck between the stunning visuals and the lacklustre script were the actors. Each of the performers were at their peak in the movement and blocking. The ensemble, made up of Jeremiah Wray, Sho Eba, Georgia Voice, Claire Argente and Mark McDonald, worked in unison during the extended movement sections – like magic on stage. Dialogue delivery, similar to the script, included swift changes in style from performances larger than life to performances intricate and bathed in realism.
The Naughty Corner Collective should be rewarded for persevering through hardship of a pandemic to get a work on stage. ‘Maze’ may not have been perfect but it showed that the Naughty Corner Collective with the right support certainly has the potential to be a new player in the Brisbane Arts ecology at some point in the not too distant future.
Lewis Carol said of storytelling “Begin at the beginning…and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” While not universally true, there are plenty of examples of non-linear storytelling that work quite effectively, ‘Maze’ is one such example where heading Carol’s advice might have been soundly needed. The irony of taking story structure advice from the man who made a career of writing nonsense is not lost, however when it comes to ‘Maze’, much like many a production of Alice in Wonderland, while it was technically beautiful it was also needlessly confusing and therefore unengaging.
‘Maze’ performed until October, 2 2021 at Underground Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse. For more information visit the Brisbane Powerhouse Website.
Photos by Kate Lund.