Ancient mythology a-mazed

Maze (The Naughty Corner)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Underground Theatre

September 29 – October 2

A good story haunts, it is mentioned late in “Maze”. It’s an appropriate summary of the mythology at the centre of the new work by The Naughty Corner, an emerging theatre collective of Griffith University alumni. The story, which has been developed through the Dead Puppet Society Academy program, is of the Minotaur part man and part bull (to use Roman poet Ovid’s description) creature of Greek mythology… the offspring of Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos of Crete and a snow-white bull sent by the god Poseidon that Minos kept alive, only to have his wife fall in love with it as punishment.

Unfortunately, with the provision of only limited initial context information, it becomes difficult for audience members to all be able to follow the story’s narrative and invest in its characters and relationships. What isn’t lacking however is the work’s amazing aesthetics, which are innovative and exciting. Four handheld custom-made LED light poles are inventively used to create the labyrinth of tunnels below the island of Crete, into which the minotaur is ostracised, shrinking the space within its barriers to creating a feeling of claustrophobia and eventually morphing together to evoke an image of the beast itself. This works well with Ben Mills’ lighting design and Tom Collins’s soundscape, which easily take us into to damp maze of tunnels. Wireless lighting effects by Mark Middleton and Peter Rhoades create visually striking glow-in-the-dark costuming accents, allowing them to become part of the action themselves, along with the well-placed appearance of some puppets to support storytelling.  

The tale of the Ancient Greek monster is told primarily through movement, which is simultaneously the production’s strength and downfall. Liesel Zink’s choreography, for example, sees the performers (Claire Argente, Sho Eba, Mark McDonald, Georgia Voice and Jeremiah Wray) moving together in tight as-one formation, especially in its early attempt to outline the story to the point of Pasiphae’s birth of the cursed child.

In the show’s program, it is noted that The Naughty Corner’s work promises exploration of provocative narratives and in this regard, “Maze” certainly delivers. Its execution, however, is almost too clever, making it best suited to those with previous familiarity with the story of the cursed bastard beast of Crete. Writers Bianca Bality and Joe Wilson’s extensive use of deliberately evasive undefined pronouns in dialogue doesn’t aid audience understanding, particularly in early scenes. Indeed, while design elements contribute considerably to the production’s visual storytelling, there are still lapses in its expression of the Minotaur’s transformation into a monster. Pacing could be tighter with some shortened scenes and less lengthy pausing within them. However, under Jess Bunz’s direction, it touches on bigger themes around perception and what makes a monster, so is certainly still a show of much potential.

Photos c/o – Kate Lund