A young girl has been murdered and a Detective and his team have only seven days to locate The Tongue-Cutter in the suspense filled production of The Thursday Groups' The Intriguing Case of The Silent Forest. With its use of a number of theatrical devices and actor training methods, the show is a powerful and confronting exploration of pain, sorrow and the ability to heal within a noir setting.
From its opening moments, the cast (Rodrigo Calderón, Matthew Crosby, Kathleen Doyle, Eidann Glover, Alana Hoggart, and Lorna McLeod) deliver committed and convincing performances that never wane or falter. It's an ensemble that is very much tuned in to each other, which is crucial given the physical nature of the show.
With grounding in Tadashi Suzuki’s actor training method, Crosby's direction allows for impressive movements to be presented, successfully highlighting that stories can be told with the body and not solely by voice. There is a sense of urgency and tension that ripples throughout the audience elicited from the considered movements by the performers. There are striking displays of physical theatre that support and strengthen the narrative and sometimes overpowering the spoken text with regards to how the story unfolds.
Like its cast, the lighting design is constantly on the move with the Japanese aesthetic of yugen being utilised, where the emphasis is not just on the seen, but also the unseen. Seven lightboxes are manipulated by the actors during the performance, to direct light and create shadows as needed, where even as we comprehend the horrors of what is unravelling, some mesmerising visual effects are constructed.
The costumes also play with this ancient ideal of yugen, as each trenchcoat conceals an outfit that signifies a change in character. At one point, an officer has her shapeless trenchcoat removed to reveal a royal blue dress, as she becomes the auntie of our protagonist. The idea of never being sure of what you are seeing and questioning how well we think we know people keeps repeating in The Intriguing Case of The Silent Forest. We all play different roles and characters depending on the company we are in, and what we often see isn't a reliable picture of who a person is.
While all these design elements work incredibly well together, there are instances in the story where they can easily overwhelm you when they are partnered with the dialogue. You can admire the beauty of three bodies repeatedly dropping to the floor and picking themselves up again in perfect unison, but then you suddenly find yourself trying to play catch-up with Crosby's text-heavy script.
The Intriguing Case of The Silent Forest is an ambitious piece of physical theatre that investigates the long-lasting impact of trauma. Fortunately The Thursday Group is a highly capable group of theatre makers who are able to draw an audience into an intense environment with its unique approach to storytelling. It might not be the easiest work to sit through, but it's definitely a gripping and exciting work to witness.
Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St. Carlton.
Season: until 7 July | Wed & Fri 8:30pm. Thur & Sat - Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre
Image Credits: Jack Kirby Crosby