Sunday 20 November 2016

Hands Over Eyes review

There were times while watching Hands Over Eyes that I felt like I was watching a live episode of Black Mirror, a TV series that looks at how our over-reliance on technology can have far darker consequences than we could have imagined. Presented as part of La Mama Theatre Explorations season for work in various stages of development Peter Danastasio's Hands Over Eyes raises discussion on perceptions of truth and honesty and how the impact this can have on people.

Danny Carroll plays Paul Havour, a conversationalist who works for a company that conducts simulated experience sessions to assist patients with their past traumas or phobic treatments. Through the course of the week he begins to question his beliefs and work ethics while attempting to assist his patients with treatments he finds troubling.

The issues being explored here do run the risk of making the audience feel as if they are drowning in information, especially given the clinically-themed dialogue. With the use of some well-timed breaks in speech, visual projections and subtle humour, Danastasio ensures that even though our utmost attention is required for its entirety, we still have time to process what is being said and the implications of what that means.

I do feel the relationships between the characters needed to be more strongly established and the conversations between them - and how these conversations were had - to then be representative of that. There are scenes where Paul is speaking with his patient who seems to have an equal understanding of Paul's specialist knowledge regarding the mind and human connection. The power dynamics within the company employees also needed to be more consistent.

The ensemble in Hands Over Eyes are extremely dedicated to their characters and for the most part, they carry a firm sense of authority in what they say, further generating authenticity throughout the show. Carroll seems to be a natural in the highly demanding role of Paul, who is in virtually every minute of the 75-minute play. His ability to capture Paul's initial suaveness and confidence and the subtle transformation to uncertainty and doubts that begins to creep into his own thoughts is well manifested. However, I would have liked the story to take his crisis further and create a much stronger impact on Paul's life. The supporting cast of Ashton Sly, Ezekiel Day, Jim Coulson, Alex Rouse, Alex Rowe and Evangeline Stoios all bring depth and purpose to their characters and all have a motivation that is clear, even if they are on stage for one scene.

The sound design by Ben Griffiths and the lighting and filmed components by Darcy Conlan are carefully constructed and further enhance the environment being portrayed. The active interactions the actors have with the visual projections are particularly great to watch as are Paul's interactions with Karen.

It's a comforting thought when independent theatre still in development can already be more thought provoking and entertaining than some of the professional performances being produced. Hands Over Eyes is a rewarding watch that will have you questioning your own ideas based on your own reality and the repercussions of this.
Hands Over Eyes was performed between 16 - 18 November at La Mama Theatre.

* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 20 November.

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