Theatre Review: The Confidence Man – Studio Underground (Performances to 10th May)

  • Simon Clark
  • May 7, 2015
  • Comments Off on Theatre Review: The Confidence Man – Studio Underground (Performances to 10th May)

The Confidence Man is the most recent production in Perth Theatre Company’s current season. It also happens to be a theatre piece unlike any other I have seen, a remarkable technological incursion into the traditional world of theatre. Armed with a mobile and some headphones, the audience are let loose into the world of Pete, his family, and the odd interloper; free to not only follow the story from one of six perspectives; but also jump with impunity between the six characters.

Given the nature of the production, there are no “actors” present in the traditional sense, all dialogue and stage directions have been pre-recorded, by a host of Perth’s acting community, and pre-loaded into the audience’s smartphones. Members of the audience then are given the opportunity to don oversized masks and perform as one of the six characters – it’s best to get down early if you want to be in with a chance to perform.

The ability to switch between the six different characters does present its problems; or at least it did for me, most obviously who to follow at any given moment. My personal reasons for choosing which character to follow were mostly whimsical, at point I chose to follow one character, Alex, because he happened to be closest to me.
I enjoyed the ability to flit between the characters at ease, but I was at times always left with the nagging feeling I was missing out on something, when someone further up the row laughed or gasped. That being said the idea then that no one member would have the exact same experience as another is an interesting one. At the climax of the play, I chose to return to Alex and was treated with a wonderfully poignant moment (and for me the perfect end to the play) where Tom Wait’s ‘That’s the Way’ played as the stage faded to darkness. My friend, instead had her handset tuned to Anita, with her existential musings providing a commentary to the explosive events taking place. They were two very different endings, but both equally meaningful and thought provoking in their own way.

Another element of the production I enjoyed was the set, which in many ways was reminiscent of a Cluedo board; with each of the rooms demarked through white lines. The attention to detail was impressive, with locally sourced furniture and furnishings used to give the impression of an authentic suburban home. I was also quite impressed by the writing, though a simple enough story line, I felt each of the characters were well written and interesting enough that at times it was hard to pull yourself away from them to visit another. And whilst some of the performances by the audience perhaps weren’t quite as on point as they could have been, this never really spoiled my enjoyment of the piece.

There is a lot to like about The Confidence Man and it’s definitely a production not to be missed. Like many Perth Theatre Company works it pushes the boundaries on theatre; and does so in an interesting and entertaining way. I also feel like the play lends itself well to repeat viewings, either to see the play from another characters perspective, or indeed to take part in the action myself.

The Confidence Man plays at Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of WA until May 10th.
For more information and tickets please visit: http://www.perththeatre.com.au/show/confidence-man/

The reviewer attended opening night on May 1st

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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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