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June 4, 2013 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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The Kick by Andres Veiel and Gesine Schmidt

Documentary theatre, the style of using verbatim interviews to create a dramatic narrative, has been an interesting medium for exploring social events issues since Anna Deavere Smith premiered Fires in the Mirror in 1992. Victoria’s THEA302 Conventions of Drama class follows in this tradition with The Kick, a dramatic portrayal of interviews with those involved, either directly or indirectly, with the murder of a young man, Marinus, by a kick to the head.

Set in 2002, the year of the incident, and using only words taken from interviews, we see a very different Germany to the powerful, economically successful country we know from the media. Potzlow is a town that has suffered from the reunification, where ex-GDR citizens are unemployed and their children are troublemakers; the West has not been gentle with them. This theme of the negative impact of reunification is one of the most interesting presented in the play, and it is a shame that is not explored further. What the play revolves around is what is too common here: kids drinking, doing drugs, dropping out of school, being cruel. In that sense, it is something that we have all seen too much of and there was not a fresh perspective provided, other than the sad reality that these social ills are not going away.

The tension between parents and their failings unites some characters, but also creates a tiresome blame game as distraught guardians defend themselves against their children’s actions.

The plot has little content, with the incident being recounted repeatedly, and the issues and sorrows of many of the characters being the same. The pace was too slow for such a long, static story, and the empathy created for the first few monologues dies out quickly.

Having a play where all the characters are constantly in a state of despair and talk of little else was not helped by the space at Studio 77 being too large for the intimacy required. The cast’s voices did not travel well and their anger and frustration got lost in the space, not giving it the force the actors were obviously trying to portray. There was honest sincerity from Hannah Kelly, playing Marinus’s mother, and Trae Te Wiki-Wall, playing his friend. Keith Labad makes a delightful turn as the Mayor of Potzlow and provides some much-needed light relief.

Tweddle’s decisions as to movement and use of space were effective, if at times, overly ‘experimental’. The gender- and ethnicity-blind casting was a good choice to challenge perceptions of gender roles. The cast had a great sense of unity about them, and worked well to support each other.

THEA308, The Scenographic Imagination, under the tutelage of Jim Davenport, designed the set, sound and lighting, which all displayed Davenport’s usual professionalism. While the lighting could have been stronger on some parts of the stage, the sound was an effective addition to the landscape. The set of metal frames created a fluid jail-block area and the plastic sheets had huge dramatic potential to further develop the uncommunicative nature of the village. The way this was used at the opening of the play was intriguing, then disappointingly redundant. Some of the other elements, like the sand and rubble, lacked the stylistic unity that pervaded the rest of the set.

It is an adventurous concept, to translate a documentary play and perform it using university students. The hard work of the cast and crew are evident, but the slow plot and pace of presentation are hard to move past.

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