Boy Girl Wall (Review): The Escapists @ !Metro Arts (2010)

Spring is just round the corner; love is in the air – along with deadly magpies – so it’s a perfect time for a new, one-man show all about romance and other local hazards, natural or man-made. With no more than a stick of chalk, a couple of puppet socks, a few props and an overhead projector, Lucas Stibbard creates and embodies the entire world of Boy Girl Wall in the bare, black-walled box of the !Metro Art’s Sue Benner Theatre.  It’s a sweet, very funny and touching confection, and a quite splendid night in the theatre from The Escapists.  This is the same creative collective that brought you The Attack of the Attacking Attackers a year or so back. The Escapists’ manifesto: imagination, theatricality and the joy of play are all joyously present in Boy Girl Wall.

Floppy haired, chalk-stained-suited and bare-footed, Stibbard, like his quirky imagination, takes flight through the tiny space of the inner city’s favorite theatre haunt. Stibbard’s is a wonderfully original and intelligent voice, and he leaps and whirls in a non stop, dazzling performance in the best Aussie tradition of yarn spinning. Flicking and switching between characters with the ease of someone totally in charge and on top of his game, it’s a 70 minute delight which flies by at full tilt and as nimbly as the story teller himself. 

After the show, I chatted briefly with him and his wife, Neridah Waters who accompanies the action from the corner on xylophone and other sound fx. I ask whether Lucas, aided and abetted by the other Escapists (principally Matthew Ryan BGW’s co-writer as well as newcomer Sarah Winter), has any other stories to tell. This one has taken a year or more to put together, but I’m delighted to hear the notebook is full of more snippets for future delight.

Boy Girl Wall was due to play Brisbane last year but, after two shows, had to be cancelled through Stibbard’s ill health at the time. The play then went on to the Adelaide Fringe Festival in early 2010 where it was well received. Now, over a year after its start-up and after an out of town tryout, it’s all set to entertain and, I’m willing to bet, utterly charm local audiences during its 10 day season. I’m reminded (as I read about the history of the show) of the importance of a good nurturing gestation period for a new work, and especially of the value of the second production. I spoke with a friend after the show who’d seen the play in that original, short-lived season in Brisbane.  She was delighted at how much it had grown, expanded and developed, and yet it’s actually lost playing time – mostly the jokes – Nerida noted, in the interests of tightening up the central narrative.

There’s an entire gallery of characters in Boy Girl Wall, but the central protagonists Thom and Alethea, who live side by side in a West End (inner city Brisbane) apartment, are separated by the Wall. Each is having a bad, bad week; each attempting to cope alone. As narratives go, their individual stories and how they eventually come together – it’s a romance after all – is pretty much it. It is however, the telling, like the journey, which is all.

PS Along the way Thom and Alethea encounter some marvellous characters – my favorites: the Magpie of Montague Road; Thursday – yes the day of the week; and Dan – Apple’s thinnest computer yet. There’s also the philosophical fusebox, a Gothic librarian, the anxious Wall and the serial theatre sports junkie/lover of impro – among many others, but get acquainted and give yourself a treat.

PPS And props to Stibbard for his wickedly witty thank-you end-of-show speech. No, you have to go yourself to appreciate this little acknowledgement of another ex-USQ theatre graduate currently also appearing in a one-man show across town. And just so you know, there’s a hidden hommage in the show to another classmate from USQ, the real ‘Alethea Jones.’ It’s a rich confection, indeed!

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