Review: Triangle by MKA Theatre

Triangle: Elizabeth Nabben pic by Sarah Walker

Elizabeth Nabben in Triangle; picture by Sarah Walker. Photo courtesy MKA Theatre.

You all know me by now. If there’s a whiff of the vampire around a bit of theatre, I’m knocking enthusiastically on the door yelling “Let the right one in!” demanding, like any good vampire, an invitation to the revelry.

MKA Theatre’s new production, Triangle, came to my attention with words that sounded something like ‘it’s a play about a vampire who lives in a tree in Edinburgh Gardens.’ How, I ask you, could I possible resist?

Triangle is certainly not a traditional vampire story, but it carries all the hallmarks of the genre: temptation, passion, ennui, blood, transformation and death.

It’s also witty, engaging and utterly riveting.

The vampire (Elizabeth Nabben) appears on a large wooden swing, representing her tree in Edinbugh Gardens. These ideas are a great symbol to be getting on with: freedom, playfulness, nature and the outdoors aren’t necessarily what we’d associate with the undead, but this vamp isn’t quite what you expect either. She is enthusiastically focused on the best-worst supermarket in the world, Piedemonte’s in North Fitzroy, where she gets the couscous she likes to eat and sometimes sees Chopper or Vince Colossimo pretending to shop. There’s a dangerous undercurrent to her, though, and a definite sense of the macabre. It’s no surprise that couscous is not the only thing she likes to eat.

The vampire’s strange, cool-blooded freedom contrasts sharply with the comfortable, cosy, claustrophobic life of the mother (Janine Watson) who is clearly being driven to destructive extremes by the banality of her bourgeois life in the inner city, with her son (whom she mostly refers to, disassociatively, as ‘the child’) and her despised, inattentive husband. She doses the kid up on caffeine and scorns her husband for thinking little Finnegan simply suffers from ADD. She plans to leave, to take action, but never seems to actually do anything.

And then she takes the enormous pram to the Gardens, can’t stop crying, and meets a hungry woman…

Their world gets a bit stranger after that as the story splits into multiple lines. The characters in each storyline are slightly different, their paths vary a little, and then a lot, and one path leads to giving in to an ordinary life while the other… doesn’t.

Glyn Roberts’ script is full of energy and wit, especially when humour springing from the ordinary and banal collides with scenes of raw carnage. The living are muted and half dead while the dead are vibrantly alive.

Eugyeene Teh’s fabulously simple set is excellently employed by director Tanya Dickson. Nabben and Watson display terrific physicality as well, orbiting each other around the spare stage. Their movements – languid, sharp, mirrored or disconnected –  are never overdone, but never wasted.

The production leaves me with thoughts about the way a life that’s affluent but dull can contrast starkly with the violent but undoubtedly fully alive choice to embrace dramatic change. The mother at one stage cries out that at last she’s doing something, and even if what she’s doing at the time is a terrible thing, that sense of finally acting, actively choosing the path of her life instead of bumping along full of rage and resentment, makes her a much more appealing person.

I’m sure I’d have other insights into this terrific, gruesomely horrific-wonderful play in a few days time, but you need to rush along to North Melbourne to see it before then. You really do.

Triangle plays until 4 August 2012 at MKA’s pop-up theatre at 64 Sutton St, North Melbourne. Performance starts at 8pm.

Tickets: $25 full; $20 concession, at the door or online. It’s very popular, though, so buying beforehand is wise. Visit MKA to book.