In defiance of its title, Louris Van De Geer’s Triumph is a trilogy of thematically linked and emotionally disturbing stories that explore people’s desire to connect with others. With Triumph, Van De Geer confirms why she was named as one of Melbourne Writers Festival’s ’30 under 30’ best young writers. Bringing her words to life are a talented and dedicated cast of five – Aljin Abella, Syd Brisbane, Anouk Gleeson-Mead, Emma Hall and Leone White – who irrespective of being the main character of one story or the supporting role with thirty seconds of stage time in another, ensure that their characters consistently retain depth, authenticity and real humanity to them.
The first story takes inspiration from Tania Head, a woman who had survived the Twin Towers from the 78th floor of the World Trade Centre. Head went on to become president of the World Trade Centre Survivors’ Network support group and spent countless years helping survivors heal. However, in 2007, it was revealed that Head wasn’t in America at the time of the attacks and had fabricated her entire story.
White convincingly brings out the conflicting nature of this woman who on the one hand is compassionate and empathetic, but on the other, is duplicitous and manipulative. Director Mark Pritchard does a great job with utilising the entire space available and ensuring that everything that happens on stage has the audience’s attention, to the point where I was so transfixed by what was going on centre stage that I almost missed a pivotal scene occurring simultaneously side of stage.
The second piece has Hall and Gleeson-Head playing a mother and daughter, with the daughter sick in hospital, unknowingly a victim of Munchausen by Proxy. As with the first piece, Van De Geer’s writing style ensure that we are drip-fed pieces of intriguing information that keeps us constantly wondering what exactly is going on, until suddenly it is made clear. The complexity of the desire to be needed is explored quite effectively to the point where you’re not quite sure how to feel by the time this story concludes. There are some strongly nuanced performances by Hall and fourteen-year-old Gleeson-Head, as they explore this unique mother-daughter relationship.
The third story, based on suicide pacts in Japan, shows two strangers meeting up who have decided to end their lives together. Abella and Brisbane are very relaxed with their characters and their interactions with each other feel quite natural given the circumstances they find themselves in. Romanie Harper‘s set design is at its best with this story, with a number of ominous-looking trees seemingly enveloping the two men. Amelia Lever-Davidson‘s lighting design further enhances the darkness and loneliness, which is brilliantly encapsulated with an evocative final scene.
Triumph is a dark look at how we are constantly looking for connections to other people, even if it is through tragedy or deceit. While the stories do not all have a neat resolution with everything explained, Van De Geer’s thought-provoking script allows you to come to your own conclusions as to how we should regard these people. When you get right down to it, we are all just looking for a purpose for existing, no matter how misguided we may be in finding that purpose.
Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 28 February | Tue- Sat 7.30pm, Sun 3pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: fortyfive downstairs
* Original review appeared
on Theatre Press on 20 February.