The University of South Australia’s Third Year Performing Arts Production
Behind Closed Doors – Review
A mixed crowd of young university students and experienced theatre goers turned out for the second preview of UniSA’s Third Year Performing Arts production, Behind Closed Doors. Directed by Glenn Rafferty, produced Peter Nielsen and written by Carli Stasinopoulos, Ben Grocke and Abby Daley. The show has been promoted as “An exploration of an apartment building where everything is not as it seems.”
The audience takes its seats in the Hartley Playhouse, prepared to experience the culmination of three years study. A large and imposing square block dominates the stage in white. The ushers come down through the aisles from the back of the audience and onto the stage. The crowd is silent, not knowing what to expect.
The ushers begin to perform a physical comedic act in silence and from the outset it is clear that this production will have a strong undertone of mimetic performance and rely on bodily expression, repetition of single lines and moments of precise dialogue.
Aiden Wang, Ashleigh McFadden, Daniel Harding and Gerry Barbaro present a believable group of ragtag characters, acting as our guides and taking us along their journey. Their brand of humour mixed with what can be descried as magic tricks can sometimes come off as slightly cheap but other times had the audience in stitches and becomes integral to the understanding of this production’s elusive plot. Sound effects and smooth set movement with projection allows the elevator to come to life, a character of its own.
Actor and scriptwriter Ben Grocke is the first non-usher we meet. His character’s obsession with the tuba and finding his voice through music is well replicated with the directorial choice to display the instrument as part of himself, grafted under his shirt, resembling organs. It is a moment that is displayed with a haunting perfection with use of sound and lighting.
Without the prior promotion and knowledge that this is an apartment complex we are being taken through via the elevator, the audience may not have fully understood this from what we are given on stage. This does not necessary impact the experience negatively, as the charm of this production is allowing each individual audience member to contrive their own meanings from the scenes. For example, the family that indulges in alcohol before committing a violent crime (Jordy Irvine-Creaser, Andrew Smith and co), is this a comment on alcohol’s influence over us? Or is this a depiction of crushing family expectations on oneself?
The elevator became jammed at times, as will happen with moving set pieces during a preview, and performers could work on their voice projection as they wrestle with sound effects for sonic domination. This was all overshadowed however by moments of breath taking choregraphed movement (Genevieve Hudson, Riley Hogan and co), costuming complete with ingenious changes (Kaitlyn McKenzie, Jessica Hinks, Laura Hayden), comments on technologies’ impact on the human experience (Erinn Flavel, James Skilton and co), live singing (Tiffany Williams, Jessica Matei and co), and emotional recorded scores. Behind Closed Doors rises in a crescendo, accumulating to a final, large spin on cabaret and sexuality (John Valdrez) that packs the stage with dancing and singing.
Is this the human experience as seen by our ushers, their own personal hells? Is this a commentary on today’s world by the Third Year UniSA Performing Arts students? Is this Rafferty’s successful attempt to display the talents of these students across many modes of theatre in an eclectic performance that ties together performing arts in all its facets?
Behind Closed Doors leaves that up to you to decide.
Behind Closed Doors – UniSA 3rd Year Production is on at the Hartley Playhouse from the 12th to the 16th of June 2018. Purchase tickets online at https://www.trybooking.com/VRCY or at the door.