Any work that spans multiple narratives is going to challenge an audience.
A new work written and directed by Brisbane’s Shari Indriani (and produced as a development showing with QUT’s Technical Production cohort), Recipe is no exception.
However, the specific way in which it challenges its audience isn’t as predictable. And, in leaving the work, most audiences probably won’t remember the complications of the narrative. More likely, the deep undercurrent of loving solidarity that pulses underneath its many layers.
There’s a certain thrill to teasing out Recipe’s various narratives that is probably best enjoyed with minimal expectations of what’s to come.
But, suffice it to say, whereas most multi-narrative works of fiction challenge their audience to embrace a wide array of diffuse characters and scenarios (or, conversely, bore with their heavy-handed reiteration of a single idea), Indriani cleverly maintains a tight focus on a recurring emotional conflict that’s sufficiently elemental as to allow for a number of affecting dramatic scenarios.
In other words; while fiendishly complex in its mechanics, it’s nevertheless engaging and accessible in its presentation.
Across a range of storylines spanning from the middle ages through to pre-war New York and post-millennial Brisbane, Indriani continually returns to the conflict between what is expedient and what is right. Told exclusively through female characters, it’s a debate that takes many forms. Do we appease our aggressors or stand firm? Do we pursue our passions or maintain stability?
Are we inspired or insane?
Are we happy – or delusional?
With such an unresolvable central idea, there’s a risk that the resultant work could grow vague or overly bleak. Indriani, however, weaves a steady thread of hope and resilience through the various storylines. And, for the most part, allows the characters’ own internal motivations drive the conversation forward. Again, the overall emotion of the work is love. (Albeit, love fired by anger.)
The only shortcoming in the script is an occasional tendency for Indriani to have her characters explicitly outline the subtext of the work or transforming a moment from dramatic to didactic. Aside from occasionally raising too many questions about a scenario’s realism (e.g. a police woman articulating systemic sexism, at length, in a regulatory hearing), the work simply doesn’t require it.
Independent of the script, Recipe’s rendering is something of a pleasant surprise. As a developmental showing which, in part, exists to assess the skills of a large number of Technical Production students, there’s a certain expectation of limited acting and excessive technical layers being built into the production’s conception.
The professional actors tasked with bouncing between characters and costume changes with minimal preparation do outstanding work. Similarly, the use of lighting, multimedia and design is intelligent and tasteful. One particular sequence, approximating the open skies of a Brisbane park, ranks as one of the best feats of multimedia theatre design the city’s seen in ten years.
Overall, it’s a work that engenders an excitement for the future of Brisbane’s theatrical community. The script itself is obscenely strong, the performers uniformly excellent and the developing talent involved are seemingly already cultivating excellent instincts. Hopefully, Brisbane will be seeing more of all involved.
MJ O’Neill saw Collab Works 2019: Recipe at QUT’s The Loft on Friday 24 May, 2019.