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2010, May

Urchin Reviews


The Age May 25 2010 Reviewer MARTIN BALL

Theatrical props come in many shapes, but surely few are as intriguing as Mark Cuthbertson's inflatable sea urchin. This curious object, symbolising a creature designed by nature to destroy intruders, is the eponymous inspiration for Urchin, the inaugural production by new company Encyclopaedia of Animals.

Urchin takes as its point of departure the idea that ''fear'' lurks within us. Creators Christopher Brown and Rhian Hinkley explore the powerful motivations fear inspires through a series of increasingly bizarre scenarios. The piece meanders at times and never really arrives at a particular conclusion, but the dramatic journey results in stunning theatre.

Central to its success are the performances. David Tredinnick and Christopher Brown deftly build a texture of ironic commentary on desire, but it is Merfyn Owen who really shines, displaying virtuosic control of his oral delivery. From his initial snake oil spiel to his final embodiment as a Latin-singing shamanistic pastor, Owen is thoroughly mesmerising. Jethro Woodward's intelligent soundscape complements with suave melodies and savage noises.

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That's Melbourne May 25 2010 Reviewer LUCY PERERA

Imagine if someone offered you the opportunity to never feel fear again. Would you accept? Urchin is the debut production from Encyclopaedia of Animals, which explores the notion offear using a blend of performance, film, choreography and music.

With a random collection of cardboard boxes as the backdrop, the play begins in the warehouse of two brothers who have inherited their father’s business. While Martin (David Tredinnick), the older brother is happy to follow his father’s footsteps, his younger sibling, Damian (Christopher Brown) is eager for greater success through risk-taking and exploring the unknown. They decide to import a device which apparently vaccinates the user from fear and employ an Anthony Robbins-que type speaker, Warren who is brought to life wonderfully by Merfyn Owen.

This is the departure point for a dark yet comic journey into absurdism as they start to experiment with the urchin which allows them to explore their worst fears: from the fear of public speaking and drowning to the fear of not being loved.

As they struggle to deal with their new reality post-urchin, the music and sound effects go a long way to creating the black humour. From the gentle, trickling music that is superseded by a booming, industrial bass to one of the play’s highlights – a lonesome cowboy-type rendition accompanied by a highly amusing line-dancing routine. Bursts of an insidious and nightmarish soundtrack of high-pitched screams, chains and unlocking of heavy, metal doors during the production also succeeds in sending ripples of fear right throughout the audience.

This is brave and interesting theatre.

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BEAT magazine May 26 2010

As a part of the Arts Centre’s Full Tilt program, it was expected that Urchin was going to be a creative exploration of theatre. I was not disappointed. Urchin. Urchin is a truly unique piece of theatre.

Now, where to start with a show like Urchin? Dynamic, innovative, inventive, yes, but how to explain a show that so wholly exists outside the confines of everyday theatre unless you’ve stepped inside the Urchin world and experienced it.

Described as a show that explores the politics of fear through two brothers, a motivational speaker and a device- the Urchin, which is imported by the brothers and claims to be a vaccine for fear. But when each of the three tries the device, things go from ordinary to a little out of this world.

Delivered using surrealism, it is hard to guess what is coming next in Urchin. From the roaring sound design that I couldn’t just hear, but rather feel reverberating through the theatre, to the line-dance mid show, the question of ‘what next?’ hung in the air.

Every element of theatre was used to ensnare the senses of the audience. The lighting, sound, multimedia, dialogue were so cleverly intertwined it is hard to isolate them and define how each worked individually.

Urchin used both comedy and tension perfectly. Dramatic moments are laced with awkward interaction between characters and lengthy pauses, stirring unpredictable laughs among the audience.

This piece invoked a sense of fear and dread, not unlike watching a scary movie at the cinemas. A blinding flash of light on the audience and then complete darkness. The sound is deafening and for a moment the theatre remains black. It was disconcerting, being surrounded by a room full of people but completely alone in your fear. But maybe that was the point.


3/3

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