ATYP Studio 1, September 12
Following this performance Yve Blake graciously acknowledged the Australian Theatre for Young People’s role in kick-starting her career and in teaching her that theatre can be made out of anything. Well, almost. We now know that it cannot be made out of posts on a website, as this show was, or at least not without the application of much more vetting, structure, wit, imagination and emotional contouring.
Developed in conjunction with the National Theatre Young Studio in London, Then is the upshot of Blake creating the WhoWereWe website on which she solicited stories about people’s pasts. Over a thousand flooded in, and from these she has built her hour-long show, whether quoting them verbatim, enacting them or using them as the raw material for song lyrics or rapping (against techno backing tracks fashioned with Alex Groves).
The snag is that few are of interest – a problem extending to most cyber interaction. There mundanity is king, and feebly-expressed mundanity to boot.
Yet that the idea was not entirely foolish is proven by the smattering of gems. Some came from childhood memories, such as the girl who didn’t dare speak out loud to her dolls and the child who was terrified of “the bath police”. Among the strongest songs was one based on poignant memories of an idyllic Yorkshire childhood juxtaposed with a present of work, kids and stress, and two others that were about parenthood and evolving parent-child relationships. One song boasted the chirpily affirmative line, “If you don’t like yourself you just have poor taste”.
Theatrically the presentation was modest, with the exception of a glorious moment in which a discarded jacket magically became a baby Blake was nursing. But the harsh reality was that for every gem there were swathes of inanity, and she probably should not have attempted to compile this show until she had 10 times as many posts from which to filter those worth kneading, expanding and lacing with her undeniable charm.