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Resplendence review (Southbank Theatre, Melbourne)


It’s amazing how far hunger can push people. Angus Cerini’s Resplendence begins with a single man, played by Cerini, alone in his room as he stares about at everything around his apartment. His internal monologue loops and swirls as thoughts fracture, leap and fall. Soon enough, he realises he’s hungry and sets out into a loud and claustrophobic world to assuage that need. When a tragedy occurs, he realises he’s powerless to help. There’s violence in his helplessness.

Cerini, who has both created and performs the one-man play, evokes the anger and suffocating frustration we feel about a world we’re unable to control or change. His performance is an exercise in intensity and discipline. As his physical ticks take hold and his voice, face and body contorts, we see a man quickly losing control.

The language, performance, lighting, design and sound all combine to make a gripping theatrical experience. You’d be lucky to see any piece of theatre where every element is so perfectly in-sync and directed towards a common vision and goal. Every artist is at the top of their game and there’s precision in every element.

Marg Horwell’s set is a bare, long rectangular platform, which spans the width of the Lawler theatre. With black sides and a stark white top, it is everything it needs to be. Andy Turner’s lighting works with both shadows and the structure of light; beams penetrate the performance space from above, below and behind. Nothing behind the platform is ever lit, which means the platform could be floating absolutely anywhere. Jethro Woodward’s sound design is an absolutely immersive, expressionistic representation of a busy city street. It runs the gamut from in-your-face to gently menacing, although it’s occasionally difficult to discern exactly what Cerini is saying.

Resplendence represents what Melbourne Theatre Company wanted to achieve with Neon. This is a daring and difficult work that wouldn’t get a look-in for a mainstage season, but it’s already sent a buzz throughout the Melbourne theatre scene.

It’s a technical achievement and connects in a visceral way, but there’s something a little too fleeting about the experience. While moments and images and sounds will stay with you, the ideas somehow float away fairly quickly. Perhaps it’s that the swirling and flowing poetic language serves to blunt the psychological peaks. Perhaps it’s that the narrative feels slightly imposed and doesn’t quite serve the expressionistic spirit of the piece. Or perhaps it’s that the central character falls somewhere between an “everyman” and a very specific, idiosyncratic person.

Resplendence is at the Lawler, Southbank Theatre until 22 June. Featured image by Sebastian Bourges. 


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