Striking examination of memory and identity
By Bradley Storer
The Temple strikes a strong stance from the instant it begins. After a deliciously slow curtain reveal, the opening image of a lone person sitting atop a pile of chairs instantly inspires giggles from the audience and sets the tone for most of the evening.
Five strangers meet in a vaguely defined situation where they ritualistically bond, break down and rebuild over what could be days, weeks or months. Described as ‘an orgy of comedic performers’ the non-sequential dialogue that ricochets from subject to subject combined with the melancholy of lonely, rambling and halting monologues instead invokes the Absurdists.
The five performers (Aljin Abella, Ash Flanders, Genevieve Giuffre, Mish Grigor and Marcus McKenzie) still manage to extricate a laugh from every beat, pause and repetition of the cyclical and rapid-fire dialogue. Director Gavin Quinn keeps the pace at high speed and the physical comedy, with special mention to the background antics of Abella, is awkward and ridiculously sublime.
The play explores the mutability of identity, memory and the loss of self through roleplay as the characters engage in mandated exercises from an unseen authority which require them to connect with each other and break down their ego barriers.
Although many scenes incite laughter, the ferocious bullying and flaying that ensues is, at times, disconcerting to watch. The final moments, which seem to broach the idea of death as the ultimate transformation, are unflinchingly graphic and sure to be divisive. This could potentially be justified if director Quinn could tie the ideas raised throughout the piece together in a stronger and more explicit way, however it might be too conventional an expectation for a piece so clearly resistant to the forms and rhythm of traditional theatre. The Temple leaves viewers to sort through its fragments and puzzle out their meaning for themselves.
The Temple runs 3 – 26 May at the Beckett Theatre, Coopers Malthouse. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.
Photograph: Pia Johnson