The Butterfly Club Presents THE DIVINATION AGENCY

Foreseeing a promising future for this show

By Tania Herbert

The show premise here concerns two women who form ‘The Divination Agency’, running a quasi-scam providing clients with predictions of their future by calling on the dictionary for premonitions. The slightly awkwardly executed set-up, however, opened up a much more interesting issue – the line between charlatan and true clairvoyant.

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Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman takes us on a journey through her mysterious history- of a Sri Lankan father filled with stories of joy despite a background of fighting through World War II, and of the undeniable psychic link she holds with a beloved grandmother.

The creativity of the piece was evident not only through the beautiful storytelling, but through the varied mediums used, with puppets, a shadow box, projections and an original score (composed by Clair Deak) to illustrate the continual contrast between fantasy and harsh reality.

The performance of Bernadette was truly lovely – her naturalistic acting, and clear emotional relationship with the material held for every moment of the performance, and there was a real sense of connectedness between audience, performer, and the material.

However, the show was largely performed ‘vignette-style’, in brief or even fleeting scenes moving from one presentation style to the next. Much as the The Butterfly Club holds the perfect ambiance for such a piece, it was impossible to maintain the flow with such continual scene cuts in such an intimate space, and the pace of the production just couldn’t keep up with the pace of the narrative.

Huge kudos to the tech who flawlessly executed an astounding number of cues, and to Kat Taylor as the ‘offsider’ who, whilst unable to meet the charm of her fellow performer, was well up to the demanding task of moving from actor to puppeteer, to stage hand and back to actor without a flaw.

The puppets were beautiful, the shadow box lovely, and there were some really moving visuals in juxtaposing war images with war-time swing music. There were also some deep themes there- ideas of cross-generational trauma, of reincarnation, and of the complexities of accepting ones own spirituality. There was definitely something very real happening on the stage, albeit in a performance piece in need of a lot of tightening up. As my review companion remarked after – “I had a lot of thoughts”, and really, what can be more satisfying that that in the alternative theatre scene?

The Divination Agency is playing at The Butterfly Club 2-5 March, 7pm.

Tickets: $25-32