In a world of ethereal, imagined and somewhat real moments, Phantasmagoria explores complex family relationships and societal issues in innovative ways but the work never truly achieves it’s lofty ambition.
Briony has questions. Questions only her father can answer. Questions that will provide answers to why she is the way she is and why he was the way he was. But how do you get answers from the dead?
Slowly, through a series of vignettes, Briony leads the audience on her journey of discovery and memory, to uncover the clarity lurking within the murky dark.
Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman weaves an imaginative tapestry – stitching together stories, movement and puppetry to convey the rich lives of the metaphorical and grounded characters.
That being said, the heavily detailed and fantastical elements of the work do little to detract from a very underdeveloped and lacking script.
Meg Dunn, Elnaz Sheshgelani, Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman and Yuchen Wang seamlessly work together as a strong ensemble, but sadly there are times when it feels like each is in a play of their own. Underdeveloped characters lead to little emotional connection to the script and complex themes explored within.
Often it felt as if the performers had not fully worked with the script before and Cathy Hunt’s direction lacked any kind of grounding for the performers, nor the work as a whole, to hold onto.
The practical staging of the work is by far this production’s standout, with Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman’s puppetry and animation beautifully detailed and adding whimsy and spots of comedy to the work.
Justin Gardam and Marlon Grunden’s sound design and Giovanna Yate Gonzalez’s lighting design lift the production and guide the audience through the many different worlds.
Phantasmagoria is brimming with potential – a fascinating story and wonderful design concepts that are waiting for further development and stronger unification of ideas to lift it beyond its current staging.
Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Performance: Tuesday 8 March 2022
Season continues to 12 March 2022
Information and Bookings: www.theatreworks.org.au
Image: Phantasmagoria – photo by Rick Evertsz
Review: Gavin Roach