Australian Theatre for Young People
ATYP Studio 1
Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Season: 9 - 19 September
Maybe you couldn’t tell someone what you are, you couldn’t be sure who you will be, but we can all answer the question: Who did you used to be? This question is at the crux of Yve Blake’s work in Then as she probes and ponders about our past experiences and how this accumulates into a form of identity. Unsurprisingly, this work is thought provoking and insightful – and yet Blake achieves this with vitalising humour and unstoppable energy that shapes this reflective theatrical/musical experience into one that is exceedingly enjoyable.
Then has emerged as a collaborative project, stemming from the creation of a website WhoWereWe.com, whereby Blake invited people from all over the world to share stories about who they once were. This led to over a thousand stories being submitted, covering all things from appreciating life’s freedom before having children, to sticker collections and falling off a chair dancing to Shania Twain (and hating Shania Twain thereafter). It is somewhat astounding that a show so triumphant in its comedy can simultaneously engage with deeper themes, such as the cyclic nature of life and disillusionment of past hopes for the future. Perhaps the incorporation of music and song throughout the work can partially account for the evocation of such polarised emotions. While a number of the stories told by Blake are performed theatrically, a great deal of the short tales are meshed into songs under the hand of music producer Alex Groves, allowing particular themes and ideas to prevail. It is well known that music can elicit a gamut of emotions, and the innovative approach to this musical-theatrical fusion is delightfully unconventional for the audience. In its oddities, the piece mirrors the bizarreness of life and draws out the humour from the mundane.
Yve Blake is nothing less than electric. From the word ‘go’ she exudes energy, giving a zesty performance that roused laughter from the audience again and again. In every action and utterance Blake is fully committed to her artistic decisions, which serves to carry the audience along with her wholeheartedly, invested in the performance even when things get a little outlandish. You can’t resist warming to her, as she zealously gives her all in storytelling, never tiring in the process.
An eclectic array of costumes and props are employed throughout the show, aiding Blake’s chameleonic transformation in expressing people’s stories. Blake zips in and out of costumes with great panache and somehow manages to kindle laughter with the slightest of nuanced actions. A special mention for the collage tux designed by Judith Ekblom and Archie Mac London – it almost had as much pizzazz as Blake did. An overall integration of videos, visual design and lighting elements projected on the back wall of the theatre designed by Rosa Nussbaum, Joel Enfield and Clotilde De Verteuil sustained the stylistic flair of the work, elevating it to vibrant new heights.
This work condenses some comical, some ordinary, and some intensely personal experiences of people across the globe in a theatrical/musical extravaganza. Blake’s work speaks for our diversity as unique individuals and yet our semblance of homogeneity as the human race. Then’s deeply relatable nature is a testament to the universality of storytelling. There is an immense power in self-reflection, and Then invokes the consideration of how the person we once were has metamorphosed into who we are today.