Compliance of Boy Girl Wall with Postmodern Theatre Style
Boy Girl Wall is an effective Postmodern Theatre performance realised by Matthew Ryan, Lucas Stibbard, Neridah Waters and Sarah Winter, which was staged in 2010. The theatrical masterpiece was nominated for the Helpmann Award for Best Actor in 2011 and won the Matilda Award for Best Independent Production in 2010, proving its efficacy as a Post-modern Theatre performance. Post-modern Theatre is about “challenging the boundaries of what constitutes classical drama, as well as the space in which that drama occurs, much of postmodern drama might be called performances, or happenings, and overlaps with the performance in body art” (Woods, 1999). Through the conscious manipulation of appropriation, the integration of live and digital media, intertextuality and the employment of symbolism, the performance successfully captured the imagination of viewers and immersed them in the fantastical tale of love. The deliberation of these conventions and dramatic elements contributed towards the effectiveness of the performance in obeying the conventions of the Postmodern Theatre style.
Appropriation was used purposefully in the performance to apprise the nature of Postmodern Theatre as a means of contextualising the performance for viewers. The implementation of this particular convention was achieved in the first few minutes of the performance where the audience was introduced to the narrating character who outlined the disposition of the plot. The entrance of the narrator was assisted by a typical Hollywood show tune, suggesting the execution of a customary piece of Theatre. This expectation was curtly disrupted when the narrator appeared with a Theatre Box and red curtains enclosing his head, positioning the narrator’s face as the focal point. The red curtains in the Theatre Box contrasted with the black curtains side stage to draw attention to the lack of theatrical essence in the performance. The presence of some theatrical and non-theatrical aspects aligns with the known conventions of Postmodern Theatre, as supported by the following quotation. “In much Postmodern Theatre the line between Theatre and non-Theatre is deliberately erased” (Begbie, 1997). The use of appropriation in the performance made reference to iconic Theatre pieces which was later contrasted by the introduction to Boy Girl Wall and the Postmodern Theatre style.
Intertextuality was successfully implemented in the narrator’s introduction to the performance by embedding material from well-known historical films. The narrator presented the plot by addressing the audience directly, “This is not a love story. It’s a story about love. Which is to say real love. Which is to say it’s a million moments of misery. And one good one” (The Escapists, 2010). To introduce the performance, the narrator intertextually referenced renowned love stories including Titanic and The Sound of Music to distinguish them from Boy Girl Wall. In doing this, he exploited a range of performance skills including robotic, stylised and non-naturalistic gestures, and a formal, serious tone of voice. In doing this, the purpose and nature of the performance was clearly conveyed to the audience which verified that Boy Girl Wall was a Postmodern Theatre performance rather than a traditional piece of Theatre. The employment of intertextual references to dissimilar texts provided an insight into how Boy Girl Wall would not follow suit with generalised narratives and effectively established the viewers’ expectations of the performance from a familiarised viewpoint.
The integration of live and digital media was successfully achieved in Boy Girl Wall through the careful manipulation of props and sound. These elements were developed in the performance to achieve style conformity as “Postmodern Theatre is introducing the removal of the boundary of language, and by that it is founding some new language whose source is art in itself” (Pozorje, 1990). An example of the integration of multiple media forms was when Thom’s character was introduced for the first time. The narrator produced a sense of creation and recreation when he drew a pillow Right Centre Stage, positioning the audience in a bedroom setting. His entrance was marked by the flashing of a bright light and the sound of a piercing alarm clock which represented the beginning of a morning. When Thom arose he withdrew the piece of chalk from his pocket and drew the outline of an alarm clock on the wall and continued to write on the numbers at a moderate pace. After this he slammed the palm of his hand against the drawing and the sound effect ceased immediately, generating a humorous response from the audience. The cooperation between lighting, sound and art visually assisted the viewers to interpret the setting and proved to be an effective use of space. By utilising a combination of dramatic elements the actor was granted flexibility and fluidity which aided in the continual transformation of time and space throughout the shifting narrative.
Sound is a vital element of digital performance which was notably executed in Boy Girl Wall to convey mood and atmosphere, and emphasise particular moments in the performance. Water’s script ignited compositions underscored and accompanied the spoken word to holistically develop characterisation and ambience. When Thom was forced to decide whether he would attend his meeting or retreat, an introspective moment was produced through the employment of a sorrowful and reflective piano recording. The combination of a freeze-frame, facial expression and piano instantaneously conveyed irresolution in Thom’s character. Several philosophical moments were created at different stages in the performance through the use of an astrological glockenspiel theme, which epitomised celestial objects. The initiation of this theme created a transitional point where the audience was guided through the development of the story. When Thom and Alethea united, a soft, romantic guitar and flute duet played; this created a romantic atmosphere and supported the love story shared by Thomas and Alethea. The combination of live and digital media forms in Boy Girl Wall commendably exhibited clear visual representations while sound enhanced the dramatic meaning and mood.