Sunday, October 14, 2018

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Perilous PICNIC

If you know Imaginary Beasts from the inspired lunacy of their Winter Pantos, you will be surprised by the depth and intensity of their haunting PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (through Oct. 27th @ Charlestown Working Theater).

This is the 50th anniversary of the Joan Lindsay novel (which inspired the eerie Peter Weir film) about several impressionable schoolgirls who went missing during a field trip to the 500 foot high volcanic rock “corpse” hanging over the Australian plain.

Imaginary Beasts is the always inventive brainchild of Matthew Woods. He fuses atmospheric music, physicality, shadow play and a powerful gestural language into his creations… whether or not he’s working from a pre-existing script.

This adaptation (by Tom Wright from the novel) is enhanced by the ensemble’s seamless story telling. (Each IB project is a collaboration.) Six actresses trade characters as diverse as a crusty old carriage driver, a dogged policeman, an Englishman on holiday and the highly susceptible students of Appleyard College.

In the same way that you give yourself over to a puppet (blinding yourself to the puppeteer), your eyes will see only the climbers, as the foolhardy girls clamber up the (human) rock face and tumble over an actor’s back into a ravine below. Woods manages to evoke the wild spirit lurking beneath the repressed veneer of a Victorian education (reflected cleverly in Cotton Talbot-Minken’s proper, buttoned up British attire).

Woods has found some wonderful additions to his solid troupe of performers, who when exchanging persona and placement, act as an organic whole, all contributing to the unity of the performance. IB is unique in making the ensemble the point, and the star, of their shows.