FRINGE – Wendy House – Salad Days – 2.5K

In the disused upper room of a city building, a Wendy House has been created by Pixel Theatre. It is a dystopian future where individual rights have been whittled away by the Government in the name of terrorist prevention, and those found breaking curfew face a future of imprisonment or worse. Individuals who have chosen not to play by the rules hide themselves in Wendy Houses, deserted buildings across the city, in the hope of avoiding capture for another night.

In one such space, we meet an eclectic mix of these fugitives. Clara, a sheltered rich girl, has been taken under the wing of Seb, a sleazy and seemingly unstable young man. Will and Luke, older country blokes, seem to be more experienced in the measures needed to stay undetected, and Peta tries to remain tough despite her youth. The story focusses on the interactions between these five strangers, with the actors following a loose story arch and seemingly improvising the majority of the dialogue. While this may have been aimed at creating an authenticity to the conversations and reactions going on, it seemed strained and flailing for the most part and there was no real flow to the piece. The interactions between Will and Luke offered the occasional glimmer of sincerity.

The majority of what appeared to be the structured parts of the script involve conferences between two characters. Dual conversations occur concurrently and the dialogue seems to be designed so that the sentences from one meld in and fill the gaps in the other. This demands a lot of attention from the audience as the dialogue is delivered at a normal volume for a private chat and from different parts of the room meaning that focus must shift rapidly and regularly. At times it simply wasn’t possible to keep up with what was being discussed.

On a practical level, there were some issues with the space. The detritus strewn about the room created an interesting setting but had obviously been recently added, with paint still fresh enough to come off on the arms of one unsuspecting audience member. While part of the experience of immersive theatre is the feeling that you’re actually part of the piece, on several instances, sections of the audience who were perched on the floor had to move quickly in order to avoid being trampled by the actors. Additionally, though the oppressive atmosphere could possibly be considered reflective of the mood of the piece, the heat and lack of air movement got quite physically uncomfortable near the end of the show, so attendees would do well to dress lightly.

With recent events and political policies, both within Australia and abroad, the world in which the characters find themselves is frighteningly not beyond the realms of possibility and thus the themes explored are thought provoking. A lot of effort has been put into creating a back-story for the piece and the website that relates to it offers some interesting background information to help explain the context. This production has the potential to be an important statement on the direction society is heading, however in its current structure, it does not manage to make the connection with the audience necessary to do so effectively.

Kryztoff Rating: 2.5K


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