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  • Kate Gaul



25A Belvoir


“POV” is a new theatre work that builds on re:group performance collective’s interest in the intersections of cinema and theatre, this time turning our attention to documentary filmmaking.


re:group collaborate with two young performers and thirty six unrehearsed actors across the season of their latest theatre work, “POV”.  Each night of the latest docudrama experiment two new unrehearsed adult actors join a (rehearsed) young performer onstage. Through her direction, they are led through re-enacted scenes, mediating questions about family, agency, mental health and how we speak to children.


The child, Bub, is 11-years old and obsessed with documentary filmmaking. As her parental relationship seems to be falling apart, Bub turns to these re-enactments (by actors) to get to the truth. A rotating cast of performers, who know almost nothing about what to expect, are fed lines from the child on stage, given scripts, and in-ear prompting. They tell us – via reading from a prepared script – what they are asked to arrive with.  A sense of openness and play, yes.  For the male actor playing Dad: to prepare a Werner Hertzog accent. For the woman playing Mum: some preparatory research on bi-polar disorder.  The night I attended the actors were Tom Conroy playing Dad and Vaishnavi Suryaprakash playing Mum.  Mabelle Rose played Bub.

“POV” could be described as an event where two points of focus for the audience (1) the story that has been rehearsed with Bub (2) the reactions of the unrehearsed actors as they make their way through the material.

“POV’ is lays bare its mechanics – instructions are revealed; actors “act” and react and these are caught on camera and projected back to the audience in larger-than-life proportions; Bub is “running the show” but we know this is rehearsed, scripted, pre-planned.  At times we are asked to believe that as she lies on a dolly track set up across the stage and that she is putting herself in danger on a train track (accompanied with appropriate sound and lighting design). We are told at the beginning of the show that one of the company members, Carly, is the child chaperone.  About half of the way through the performance the child actor needs an official break and so we all take a break.  Biscuits and fruit poppers are handed around. The production plays with our perceptions of time - by taking it. We wait as camera’s are repositioned, a mattress inflates, a child takes a legal break in work. Early in the piece – and perhaps one of its most striking moments – is as we wait for a polaroid picture of Bub’s parents to develop/emerge from the emulsion when the chemicals hit the light. The ability to capture a moment and have it develop right before your eyes is something truly magical. Maybe this is at the heart of re:group’s practice.


On a personal level, the work reflects lived experiences of the complexities of family life, childhood and mental health within the creative team.

“For us, the real, live negotiation between two adults and a child constitutes the ‘documentary’ in the work - even though the scenes they are re-enacting are mostly fictional,” says director and co-creator, Solomon Thomas.

When the adult actor playing mum is asked by the child to describe what she knows about bipolar disorder, the adult actor temporarily steps outside her script (as it were).  A test of her preshow homework, sure, but also a candid and effective scene where an adult knows they should tread carefully and sensitively. She also knows this is a public act, in a theatre, with an audience.  Every performance may be different of course but Vaishnavi Suryaprakash’s vulnerability in this scene created genuine electricity.

Which leads me to reflect on the nature of performance; the fact that we are ALL actors; and the roles of illusion and truth in the theatre – all the old chestnuts!

“POV” invites us to think of auteur film-maker Werner Herzog who is stated to believe that there is no difference between documentary and fiction. Herzog gets three mighty mentions across the 80+ minutes of “POV”.  Bub writes to him as a fellow documentarian to ask for advice (she gets a response, read by the adult male actor in the aforementioned pre-prepared accent); during the entitled break the audience is asked to take out their phones, find quotes from Werner Hertzog and read them out loud; and there is a longer email to Bub that may or may not have arrived from Herzog but is read by Dad as if it is.

Werner Herzog plays a certain role in the public imagination. The German filmmaker has become meme-ified and satirised – not his work, but his person, his wild-haired, Bavarian-accented, sad-eyed, difficult-truth-intoning person. Herzog’s primary films are always about Herzog’s obsession with obsessive characters. There are pages and pages devoted to the examination of Herzog’s ethic’s, his appropriation and ultimately (my point-of view) his fascination with himself and his inability to fully embrace the humanity of the people who populate his chosen setting. So, what to make of the interpolation of Herzog here? Is there a pointed intention at work in “POV” give the proportional time allotted to Herzog?

I can’t unravel it but there is something unsettling about Herzog and his place inside Bub’s interrogation of reality.  Reality is mediated, I guess, and we all like to think we have control. Lots of food for thought and as a first pass at an idea 25A is the perfect launch pad for “POV”. I look forward to seeing how re:group collective develop the work from here.

By Kate Gaul

(Image Supplied)






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