Before he and a friend stumble on the village of Brigadoon later this year in The Production Company’s final show for 2017, Rohan Browne stars in Self – an exceptional piece of storytelling and dance.
It starts with a brooding theatrical nocturne: the space bare in front of the small band obscured in the dark upstage, the blue light glints deep off their brass instruments, tendrils of smoke linger, and what begins as a faint rhubarb of whispered voices quickly becomes cacophonous. And then it abruptly stops.
Rohan moves onto the empty floor, centres himself under a spotlight, and begins to move. He’s rather dashing, like Errol Flynn at the peak of his powers. Like, Flynn’s career, too, the story that plays out in Self follows a similar unfortunate trajectory.
As his character achieves success and fame, Rohan repeatedly comes back to the earlier spotlight, but the routine there begins to get more difficult to recall. Fame can lead to excess, and as his existence becomes more and more hedonistic his grip on what is fundamentally himself starts to slip.
The routines between Rohan and the ensemble – Alex Given, Romina Vilafranca, Max Patterson, Jordan Turner, Sheridan Anderson, and Loren Hunter – are fantastic. At his character’s nadir, Rohan shares the stage with Jackson Rudge in a beautiful sequence of memory and redemption.
Lead by Jack Earle, the band were marvellous throughout, particularly the unsettling refrain of the piano never far from Rohan’s shadow. There was also the other soundscape: The lip-smack of a kiss, Rohan catching his breath, or the yelp and cheers of the ensemble. It was an unexpected element, but utterly compelling.
Rohan and Director/Choreographer, Michael Ralph, have taken what in lesser hands would be a generic, cautionary tale and instead woven an engaging story with an abundance of craft and heart.
Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Friday 22 September 2017 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 1 October 2017
Information and Bookings: www.chapleoffchpel.com.au
Image: Rohan Browne – photo by Sean Higgins
Review: David Collins