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Rust: Midsumma Festival - Review

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by Tricia Ziemer (subscribe)
Television Producer & Photojournalist with a passion for sharing adventures in and around Melbourne, Australia. See my for other adventures. Subscribe to me so I can tell you of upcoming fab things not to miss.
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Amazing immersive theatre taken to a 3D level
RUST Bravo to innovative immersion theatre
RUST Bravo to innovative immersion theatre

Rust by any other name would still be Rust and it is the cleverest innovation in immersion theatre that I have experienced.

Directors Three AKA The Rat Pack
Directors Three AKA The Rat Pack

Three extraordinary directors have brought our narrow 2D understanding of acting and performance and evolved it into the 3D of theatre production.

The directors had their main plot and storyline. They then explored all the suitable venues around Melbourne and found the stunning mansion Eidon, currently the home of Alliance Franšaise as of 2006, which is the French Cultural Centre of Melbourne.

French Cultural Centre Alliance Franciase
French Cultural Centre Alliance Franciase

According to Alliance website, "In 1871 pastoralist John Lang Currie (1818-1898) commissioned the prestigious Melbourne architectural firm of Reed & Barnes to completely remodel and extend the existing Barham House* at 51 Grey Street, St Kilda. Currie, one of the greatest sheep breeders and landowners of the western district of Victoria, who owned the property "Lara" near Camperdown, effectively retired to St Kilda in the late 1870s, then regarded as Melbourne's most prestigious suburb. The central section of the building (the original house) was built in 1850, barely 20 years after Melbourne was founded, making it one of St Kilda's oldest houses. The mansion, named Eildon in 1877, has retained extensive original internal features such as sandstone, marble and timber mantelpieces, ceiling roses, bay windows, large basement quarters for servants and a cellar. "

2 French Cultural Centre Alliance Franciase
French Cultural Centre Alliance Franciase

All of this creates the perfect stage for a 1940's European drama
set during World War II. The story revolves around three romantic relationships, in a time where social norms are very old fashioned and restrictive. Weave into that another plot between the Nazi regime and rebelling freedom fighters. The high drama starts to unfold. Then you add in secret love struggling for air and a completely interactive, immersive theatre experience with brilliant acting. What you get is theatre that drips brilliance.

Surround a stage audience gets ready
Surround a stage audience gets ready

These creative directors have then taken immersive theatre and improvisation to a whole new level. They have utilised the full bottom half of the mansion as a rotating stage. No, the house does not rotate, but you will have to and you will love every minute of it. There is not one stage but several.

Talent both young and old blend seamlessly Helen Hopkins in peach
Talent both young and old blend seamlessly Helen Hopkins in peach

The cast and plots arrive gently and graciously. The first stunning actor, Helen Hopkins as Helene Coote (also a co-owner of her own theatre group), sets the mood beautifully and floats between the audience as if we were but shadows in the wings of the stage. At first, the audience is moving and shifting for spots, wondering where this is all going. And then Helene surprisingly hands a brush to a person standing beside her. At first, you are unsure; is this part of the backup crew in black? Your curiosity grows.

Once Helene is joined by other characters, the stage is set. The plot starts to unfold and the real intrigue and breathless nature of this show take hold. The characters start exiting during their dialogue, continuing the dramatic plot development to separate parts of the house.

The time has come for you to choose; Which character do you connect with? What storyline do you want to follow? You have to decide to follow and immersive yourself into a particular character's love story. But what about the rest of the play, the rest of the actors, the other love stories?

Ye of little faith. These directors have woven their storylines so well that even though you will stop and change your mind and follow another character, but you will not lose sight of the detail. They use stunning techniques of fights and noise to bring you from one far room into another and back to a main point of conflict. The actors and crew also give subtle but gentle directions, as to where you need to move next.

Suddenly there is a shift in your thoughts; these actors are interacting with me. I am the other actor they are pouring their hearts and pain out to. Snap, you are no longer the audience, you are one of the guests at this private party. You are being folded into the very fabric of the tale, and you all of a sudden are the characters confident as they cry out their pain.

This can initially feel disconcerting, but also exciting. How do you react?

Brilliant monologues from Gabriel and Candice
Brilliant monologues from Gabriel and Candice

I was privy to two incredible, perfectly worded heartfelt monologues from Gabriel Partington, playing the Nazi soldier Theodore Richter (love the humour in the name), and
Candice D'Arcy, playing Nadia Monet, the forgotten sister, always in the shadows but always giving selflessly.

The first experience was the heartbreak of Theodore, brilliantly acted, to the gentlemen just to my left. We are talking inches away, face to face. With all the passion and pain and anger boiling over in perfect scripted lines. It was mesmerising. You can't look away, you are so close to the action, you can feel the waves of emotion rolling off the Gabriel. After the event, I asked how the gentlemen (Bill) felt about this intense dialogue so close and personal. He said he felt he had three reactions; first stunned mullet, second to just stand and nod, and third to embrace the moment, just as the actor embraced and clung to him in the final dialogue. You are left breathless.

The second ended up a dialogue direct to me face to face, inches apart, as Candice pours out her soul. She is the selfless sister, always giving, never receiving, always caring never being cared for. The scripting is superb and the acting takes it to sublime. I found myself totally engaged, nodding out my understanding of her heartache. I could relate, I almost reached out to touch her arm to provide some solace.

The violence escalated in another room and we were all once again on the move to understand what had gone so dreadfully wrong at this gentle house party we thought we were attending.

The was scriptwriting of the highest quality and the actors brought it alive. Well done to Vaughn Rae, initial creator and writer and Sophie Joske, collaborating writer. You have talent and it will out more and more.

Directors Renee and Alice circulate prior to the show
Directors Renee and Alice circulate prior to the show

The expressions of peoples faces tell all throughout. I recommend you come along and sneak around and see what wonder the whole crew has created.

I spoke to two of the directors, Renee Palmer and Alice Darling who created, with Trudi Boatwright (AKA the Rat Pack), the whole concept. I was able to chat before and after the show. I asked what were some of the challenges they faced creating this environment.

The thing they said that was the hardest, was breaking down the way the talent moved and acted out their lines. Normally, there are marks on the floor and an actor is trained to move from one marker to next to create the right view to the audience.

What happens when the view to the audience is 360 degrees?

Next, actors are taught to learn their lines and act them out to the director's instruction. What happens when the audience starts interacting with the actors live, on the fly, in the moment? They have to be ready with dialogue. Yes, actors are all trained in the art of improvisation, but that is with other trained actors. The audience is a completely unknown element. There is improvisation magic in this show. Bravo.

Be ready to be astounded by the talent
Be ready to be astounded by the talent

This is a must-see. Do not let it slip by. The memories of it will stay with you for life; similar to your first Shakespeare experience outdoors in open amphitheatres.

Not this is not the first immersive show I have seen; I am old and been around the stage since I was 11. This show is something extraordinaire.

There is not a bad actor in the lot and I was impressed the younger talent held their own with some truly great actors in our industry.

You will be totally submerged in this performance, especially in the bombing blitz. I will leave that a secret for you to discover on your own and enjoy. How they achieved it? Art.

The directors also explained why the title Rust. It is all about the corrosive nature of some people, social narrow mindedness, and environments with the stresses and pressures of life breaking down the very fibre of our existence.

You must go to the TBC website to read the PDF about the show or tap your Apple Phone on the barcode on the night and the PDF will download to your phone. More innovation from this theatre company.

The question remains in my mind. How many other magnificent dialogues did I miss? I think I need to go back. I think you will want to as well.

I have a feeling this show could very quickly build a cult following with everyone arriving in period costume and add to the ambience.

The set design was perfect, the sound was perfect, the lighting was perfect.

Thanks to Claire Ford and Jessica Jeanfield for talent photography.
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*Tricia Ziemer was invited as a guest
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Why? To experience theatre like you have never before
When: 7:30 pm
Where: Alliance Franšaise de Melbourne, 51 Grey Street, St Kilda
Cost: $40 and worth far more
Your Comment
This is an excellant play and i thoroughly recommend anyone who can see it, does so.
by tim (score: 0|2) 354 days ago
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