Saturday 28 January 2017

Take A Seat review

When you die, will you be getting into heaven or will you be sent to hell? For a group of people this question will be answered sooner than they had hoped in Kieran Gould-Bowen's Take A Seat. Set in a waiting room for the lately deceased, these recently departed are given an opportunity to reflect on their lives before judgement is passed upon them.

The cast of seven consists of four actors making their stage debut, including Kotryna Gesait and Mursal Ahmadi who show distinct ability in understanding the characters and using their bodies and facial expressions to give authenticity to the depiction of what their lives were like.

As happens in waiting rooms, when your number is called it is time to go. So as one character leaves to meet their fate, Gould-Bowen has others enter - after all, deaths waits for no one and people die all the time. While this allows for dynamics to change within the remaining characters and for different emotions and reactions to occur, it also means that we don't have the opportunity to further explore some of the more interesting characters that have come and gone.

I feel the direction in Take A Seat needed to be tighter, for - while understanding the limitations of the setting - having characters constantly moving seats for the sake of movement proved to be quite distracting. Meanwhile, one character's constant pacing and clicking of a pen to show his anxiety only becomes frustrating for me as an audience member. This device is also repeated in another character whose movement might have a different purpose but still has the same result. Some more sophisticated techniques to exhibit character would have been preferable.

Gould-Dowen cleverly makes use of the piano on stage in having one of the characters play while others share their personal stories with these strangers. The underscore effectively adds poignancy in the script and builds on emotions the characters are feeling: it would be great if this could somehow be incorporated into the first half of the show with some of the other stories. 

Take A Seat is a look at some of the issues people are facing in society today through the dead characters in its waiting room. There is potential here and some promising performances, but I feel further work is needed on direction, and in instigating deeper exploration of these characters to avoid any coming across as stereotypes or purely functional.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 29 January | Sat 7pm and 8:30pm, Sun 7pm
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club

*Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 27 January 2017.

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