A fringe festival is the perfect place to experiment and explore. It’s a wonderful vessel for actors and audiences alike to take a leap of faith and journey into territories unknown.

That’s why on paper Sam Shepard’s Red Cross seems like the perfect choice. Running at about 40 mins, it’s a snippet of absurdism that one may not have the opportunity to experience otherwise.

However, in reality Shepard’s play is a messy, fractured display of surrealism on steroids.

Independent, Sydney based theatre company Arrive. Devise. Repeat. has brought their production of Red Cross to the Off Broadway Hub for this year’s Fringe Festival, and they do a decent job of tackling it.

The choice of monochrome set and costumes, punctuated with a flash of red at the end, is effective. They help set the scene as we enter. It’s a bleak, dream-like landscape we’ve entered into, which means the possibilities are endless.

Jim and Carol sit atop two identical wooden beds, dressed identically in grey and white. Carol wonders why she feels so sick, and begins to fantasise about skiing in the Rockies. But suddenly, as she’s speeding down the slope, her head explodes and rolls down the hill creating a snowball that kills millions. Then, she runs out the door leaving Jim alone.

Jim has a secret. The second Carol’s gone he takes of his tracksuit pants and begins to scratch. The Maid walks in, and Jim shows her his crabs. Then they talk about night swimming in the lake. The Maid doesn’t know how to swim, so Jim gives her a demonstration. The two lay on their stomachs on opposite beds, and Jim delivers a rhapsodic lesson in swimming. Together they swim furiously through the water. The Maid gets a cramp, drowns, and then fantasises about being a fish.

Confused yet?

Shepard’s script is chaotic, and very hard to follow. It undulates frantically through multiple climaxes. Its exhausting to watch, let alone perform.

photo-by-johnny-nolanHenry Hulme as Jim is energetic and dynamic. His long limbs are visually arresting in the small space, and his handle on the text is impressive. As Carol, Emma Throssell is very watchable. Her skiing monologue conjured vivid images of red blood on white snow, but her timing seemed a little off. Genevieve Muratore makes the most out of The Maid, exercising her comedy skills to great effect. Great comic timing and the ability the make the most of a difficult script result in a captivating performance.

Sound design by Ryan Devlin is also particularly interesting. There’s an ominous soundscape underlying the piece, creating a much-needed depth.

photo-by-johnny-nolan2Direction by Victor Kalka seemed deliberate and purposeful — every move appeared to have a reason, and the physical movements were at times more interesting than what was being spoken.

It is difficult to create a cohesive analysis of a play that has little cohesion itself. The creatives here have done well to put it together and make some sense of Shepard’s nonsense. It’s a bizarre piece of theatre that finds its home in fringe.

Bottom line: I don’t really know what I watched, but the team had a good crack at it. I’m just glad it wasn’t any longer…

Alana Kaye – Theatre Now

!Book TicketsWednesday 14 September 2016Start Time: 8:00pm
Thursday 15 September 2016Start Time: 8:00pm
Friday 16 September 2016Start Time: 8:00pm
Saturday 17 September 2016Start Time: 8:00pm

Off-Broadway Festival Hub

74 Pyrmont Bridge Road