Donna Sue Robson specialises in the communication- and healing-arts. Check out Jamie Natural Health and Healing, her energy-healing consultancy and boutique natural products at www.jamienatural.com
Erasers- World Premiere in Melbourne
Erasers is an outstanding script, enriched with dialogue that is witty, fluid, colourful and authentic. By supporting international writers who pose the tough questions, The Owl and Cat is becoming attention-worthy and making their mark as producers of socially-conscious theatre. Pic: Finn Orson (Nathan) and Jayden Popik (Jordan).
Gabrielle Savrone begins her Director's Notes with: 'Making theatre to help people to understand each other is my mission … I hope you watch it with an open heart.' Written by American playwright Jake Arky, Erasers is a World Premiere and is showing at The Owl and Cat until Friday 17th February.
Faithful to the vision of issue-based theatre, Erasers tells the stories behind teenage suicide and mass shootings in America. It is confronting even to consider that these themes are now a part of theatre- yet the outstanding script rounded off the sharpness, without losing potency or descending into mindless predictability. Mass shootings are all too easily presented as 'incomprehensible' or 'only in America': Erasers, however, seeks to make them comprehensible by instilling community and social responsibility and by deconstructing the private and public pressures that teenagers are ill-equipped to face alone.
Erasers has given the Owl the chance to showcase the depth of their actors. Under the insightful direction of Gabrielle Savrone, this production is tight, punchy and beautifully timed.
It is rare to find a script that depicts teenagers as intelligent and multi-dimensional. Lead actor Jayden Popik, who is also responsible for the script selection, totally embodies 'Jordan', a teenager saturated with anger twisted and teased with torsion, fear, vulnerability and bravado. Jayden's performance is sophisticated: he truly understands Jordan as an unpredictable, yet mature and tormented teenager.
Erasers exposes cultural context, economic, racial and sexual inequality, and builds tension and turmoil that tolerated social injustice is clearly creating. This is not just a debate about gun laws. Erasers slices through the hype and exposes the raw teenage heart. Themes of sexual marginalism, parental neglect, emotional shut-downs and the danger of ignoring problems are disturbingly universal. Erasers is relevant and complex.
The Owl and Cat actors maintain their American accents throughout the show, and is yet another example of their respect for the script and devotion to personal skill development. Pic: Victory Ndukwe (Eddie) and Ellen Grimshaw (Beethoven).
There are three outstanding features to this production: creative narrative, high-quality acting and the interactive touch that is so quintessential to The Owl's theatrical vision. It is the second time that I have been to The Owl and heard an audience member remark, 'I have never seen theatre like this before'.
Erasers' narrative-style demands a high level of actor artistry and craft devotion. There is a 3rd party objective narrative delivered by two people, Jess Badger (Colourist) and Erin Shay (Illustrator). Both actors also play Jordan and Nathan's parents who also have a narrative role, as well as journalists who deliver a public narrative. The 'shifting narrative' reframes storylines which challenges, suspends and even evolves audience judgement. Brilliant dialogue, impeccable timing and actor delivery make it work. Jesse Badger and Erin Shay deserve special acclaim.
All actor performances in Erasers are excellent and engaging. Jesse Badger is one to watch: he has genuine stage charisma and a powerful physical presence. Pic: Erin Shay (Illustrator) and Jess Badger (Colourist).
Improvisation is part of it: Jesse and Erin feed-off one another and exhibit true floor-craft awareness, creating sharp human geometry against train-track backdrops, and swing from dialogue to monologue with mechanical ease. They also hold space and design space as on-set, set-designers. The creative complexity of Erasers narrative-style is visually and rhythmically memorable.
All Owl and Cat actors hold presence gracefully, supported by the strength of Arky's script and Savrone's sensitive direction. Erasers has so much 'action overplay' that without vision and attention to detail, could have descended into chaos. Instead, it is tight and holds tension and form. Actors Victory Ndukwe (Eddie) and Finn Orson (Nathan) make their Owl debut in Erasers and are to be congratulated on their stage discipline, ensemble responsiveness and professionalism. All actors sustain American accents well and it is well worth noting that The Owl and Cat include voice training in their newly released comprehensive actor-workshop program. In fact, Finn Orson has come through the ranks of the Owl's acting academy.
Brave staging is a real signature of The Owl and Cat. Their productions are always surprising, entertaining and powerful.
Erasers stretches the boundaries of stage-craft, partly because of space restrictions that bring actors almost onto the audience's lap. Music by Matt Brown (Mbryo) is now an important part of the unique Owl and Cat brand.
Director Gabrielle Savrone has a keen talent for continuity but even more noteworthy is the devotion that she inspires from her cast: she never fails to select committed people whom she invites to collaborate every step of the way. The Eraser cast clearly understand the importance of each line of prose and collectively know what drives the story. Jess Badger notes his favourite line of the show: 'They never think I can hear them. But I always do.'
One of the most outstanding features of this play is the shifting narrative. It demands real actor commitment and outright skill.
There seems to be a 'humanitarian touch' to Gabrielle's creative work and under her guidance, The Owl is gaining a well-deserved reputation for poignant interpretation and high-quality productions. I have been privileged to see other original and ground-breaking productions from The Owl and Cat: Choice, The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name as well as the outstanding Red Boots and Half-Smoked Cigarettes. Erasers is the first script (that I have seen), that was invited and sourced from outside the company: the quality of the script and the fact that it was outsourced has given The Owl space to showcase Gabrielle's directorship and the talent of their actors.
I believe that Erasers is The Owl and Cat's best work to date. It's an awesome show and a memorable theatrical experience.
Gabrielle Savrone ends her program biography with the Beyond Blue logo and phone number. Case-in-point: she leads a company that has a social mission, vision and responsibility. Pic: Khema DeSilva (Yolanda) and Jayden Popik (Jordan).