Lloyd Jones Makes Short Work of The Big Issues

  • La Mama Theatre, 1st – 5th June 2016, O.T.H.A.N. Theatre Company Production

There are some shows that you go to where you want to close your eyes and give yourself up to its arms. You let it take you in its fold, cradle you, lull you into comfort, jerk you into disturbance, as it takes you with it on a journey, and you don’t mind any of it because you’re so deeply connected to it. Almost like a child to its mother.

When you see that a production is directed by La Mama ‘veteran’ Lloyd Jones who is in his 80th year, and what may be his 100th piece of art associated with La Mama (he stopped counting after the 83rd work!), you instantly want to give yourself up to the piece and hope to be taken on a journey. The program states that Lloyd has been engaged in non-text based theatrical forms, predominantly at La Mama. Three Short Works continues his investigations, mainly with the Ensemble (of 23 actors – a diverse mix of age, gender and race) into making theatre that is liberating to both performers and audience.

Entering the La Mama courtyard, one already got a taste of the eccentricity with an outrageous Liz Jones dressed in yellow chatting away with members and stating her woe that La Mama put her on a waiting list and didn’t let her enter the space, along with other stories. Enter Lloyd Jones, attempting to drive the disruptive lady out, who is then rescued by a kind hearted audience member, before the front of house staff announces that we are ready to enter.

The first short work was called Gender Agendas, and was meant to be about fruit – fresh, stewed, preserved, dried and rotten. There was a disclaimer in the program that “What you see, hear and think may have nothing to do with the work.” Sure enough, the ensemble appeared with lots of fruit and did different things with it, sometimes offering it to the front row. I myself got talked into tasting a bit of overripe banana, which did leave a strange taste in my mouth for the rest of the show. Not quite a lullaby, but I was totally drawn into the journey.

The second short work was called Letz Prantz, and was meant to be about mad dogs, probably baying at the moon. Disclaimer in the program – “’Probably’ means all sorts of things to all sorts of people. Maybe you’re not one of those sorts?” This work really filled the small La Mama stage with bodies, movements, sounds and signs, which said things like “Join Same-Sex Marriage Party”, “Movement to Eliminate Pessimists”, etc.

The third short work was Off Hand Cuts and it was pointed out to us before the show started, that the words could form multiple combinations – Off Cuts, Off Hand, Hand Off, Cut Off, Hand Cuts… The program states “this is the best of the titles, because its interpretation is multi layered. It was meant to be about autumn leaves………failing?” The longest of the three works, this work had a large cloth drowning the ensemble, with their hands sticking out and perhaps a powerful image of people on boats drowning in the sea, shouting for help. It later had an aboriginal man on a bench and an aboriginal woman tell her story about being raised as a Spanish girl by her mother to protect her from being killed. Her simple narration and powerful outburst of wanting to be able to proudly connect to her roots rather than be forced to adopt a different heritage was something very special. What followed was a mellow apology by the ensemble which seemed to also come from every member of audience, and the rolling of a coconut on the floor on an empty stage.

The program states, “These works involve the examination of three apparently disconnected and nonsensical titles and statements. To discover what ideas emerge from beneath the surface is one of our joys.” I was physically disturbed as I came out, and as Lloyd Jones said to me outside, it was overwhelming. The works created some very powerful images, and the whole that was felt was more than the sum of the three parts. Needless to say the ensemble was very well used by the director, as was the sound engineered by Zac Kazepis. The lighting design by Meika Clark helped draw us in and keep us in the obscure world.

It is only fitting that the non-text based form elicited a non-text based response that went deep within. One hopes that more works in theatre and other art forms have such a strong impact that doesn’t necessarily need to be described, just felt.

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