Thursday, November 20, 2008
Avast II - The Welshman Cometh
The latest offering from Melbourne's The Black Lung Theatre is the result of a three month residency/creative development process at the Malthouse Theatre, where the The Black Lung boys became, effectively, the mad relatives in the attic; locked away from daylight in the Tower Theatre and dreaming feverish and macabrely beautiful dreams. The results are amazing.
A nominal prequel to the company's first ever production, Avast (a new development of which is also showing at The Malthouse, although I haven't had a chance to see it yet), Avast II - The Welshman Cometh is an all-immersive, anti-theatrical experience; a gothic western exploring abject masculinity in a post-apocalyptic world where God is most definitely dead: the audience actually see him shot down before their eyes.
The Tower has been transformed for Avast II, resembling less a theatre and more the outpost of another world, adorned with skulls and lanterns and graffiti; a suitable setting for the intense yet darkly comical tale that unfolds unpredictably and erratically before your eyes.
Opening with an Old Testament-style preacher (Thomas Wright) offering up a child's hand in sacrifice to his God, we then flash forward a decade or two, to where The Welshman (Gareth Davies), a loner reminiscent of Eastwood's The Man With No Name, encounters said handless cowering child (Dylan Young), now grown up. Seeking shelter at nightfall, they are denied entry to a frontier town whose inhabitants, including the wheelchair-bound Mayor (Thomas Henning) and the Blacksmith (Sacha Bryning) live in terror of the beast that lurks outside their walls. Things progress apace from here, and describing details of the plot become as unnecessary as the plot itself is to The Black Lung.
The mutability of gender and familial bonds, and the threats posed by religion and hero worship are just some of the elements touched upon in this deranged yet perfectly and professionally realised production, which also features a haunting live score (including a touching song towards the end of the work performed by Dylan Young), superb lighting, and a commitment to emotional honesty which is almost painful in its intimacy. Highly recommended.
The Black Lung's Avast II - The Welshman Cometh at The Malthouse, Tower Theatre, until December 6. Bookings: www.malthousetheatre.com.au or 9685 5111.