It’s safe to assume that the opening night of any show is the performance most likely to have the most new bodies in the audience. Despite a few previews, the opening of The Temple – a devised text purporting to be stylistic glimpse inside the final moments of a few cult members taking the ultimate, irrevocable step to “Transition” – is going to be a new work for most of us watching.
And it’s a funny crowd tonight, although generally speaking, audience reactions can be hard to predict. One night’s revelry is another night’s subdued. Yet, we’re particularly hard to place here. Only a couple of minutes in and some in the audience were already laughing so hard and clapping, you’d be excused for worrying they were actually in the midst of a cardiac event.
Then again, it’s just a few minutes after that that I notice the person two to my left has fallen sleep and, despite her best attempts jolt her head upright, keeps nodding off.
Both these reactions left me perplexed. Was there absurdity and humour? In abundance. Was there enough hilarity to warrant ambulances be on standby? Not at all. Was some of the action on stage banal and tired? Yes. Was it boring and excused people falling asleep in their wee seat as if flying overnight via Economy? Absolutely not!
The Temple was a muddle but not offensively so. There no shortage of shenanigans and exploration, but admittedly it never really seemed to be heading strongly anywhere or returning to anything.
However, for all its meandering, The Temple was raised up and made wonderful by the quality of the performances. Genevieve Giuffre, Marcus McKenzie, Aljin Abella, Ash Flanders and Mish Grigor exert a tremendous amount of presence working on stage together. A sort of thespianic Rorschach test, this is a troupe that in performance is greater than the sum of its parts.
Indeed, like a Rorschach test, each member of the audience will experience it and get something from it differently – whether narcolepsy or exuberance or anything in-between. What can be agreed on, I think, is that The Temple will challenge. The Temple should be attended.
Beckett Theatre – The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Performance: Wednesday 8 May 2019 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 26 May 2019
Information and Bookings: www.malthousetheatre.com.au
Image: Ash Flanders, Aljin Abella, Mish Grigor, Genevieve Giuffre and Marcus McKenzie feature in The Temple – photo by Pia Johnson
Review: David Collins