Apocalypse Bear Trilogy

Apocalypse Bear Trilogy
A Stuck Pigs Squealing Production presented by the Melbourne Theatre Company in association with the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. Directed by Brian Lipson and Luke Mullins; Set and Costume Designer Mel Page; Lighting Designer Richard Vabre; Sound Designer/Composer Jethro Woodward; Video designer Martyn Coutts. With Brian Lipson, Luke Mullins and Katherine Tonkin. Lawler Studio, Melbourne until 24 October 2009.

Apocalypse Bear Trilogy is a dark and hilarious comedy, very much of its time – now. As an uncompromising theatrical exploration of existential angst, it is full of fascinating hints, suggestions, ambiguities and shadows.

In the first play – The Fag from Zagreb – a complex, disjointed modernist soundtrack introduces a simple, partially pixilated set of a kitchen where the Bear (Brian Lipson) and the boy Jeremy (Luke Mullins) stand in uncomfortable exploratory conversation. This combination of Bear and vulnerable adolescent boy, with computer, infers danger. In Back to the Cafeteria, the same Bear is chatting with a young woman (Katherine Tonkin) whom confusingly relates as a hopeless young girl. The Bear requests, when their conversation is complete, she runs from his pursuit around the cafeteria. In foolish, naive compliance, the woman renders herself a victim. Finally, in At Last, a young couple, navigate their relationship and negotiate their desire to procreate. They seem uncomfortably stilted, and in the thrall of expectations of one another, rather than honestly and comfortably interacting. The set is unstable and, yes, the Bear is lurking. Again there is the implication that something profoundly distressing has also irrevocably undermined this social institution. No-one is safe – even in his or her own bedroom.

The actors' work is very strong and finely tuned. Brian Lipson shows stunning control, as the expressionless Bear, whilst managing some unexpected subtleties. Luke Mullins’ work is delicate, sensitive and deliberate, and Katherine Tonkin’s stage presence is beautifully relaxed and competent.

The Apocalypse Bear has, metaphorically, broad shoulders. This expressionless and vocally flat creature, a man in a bear suit, tacitly confirms truth in dark fears. Although not fully realised as a scapegoat, he is a repository for some very difficult pathological problems of social alienation.

Lally Katz’s unique work feels more like a dream, with a childlike sense of play at its heart – satisfying hungry, subconscious recesses, than a play. Her progressive journey has been supported over the years, as it is in this production, by constructive relationships with adventurous theatre makers such as Chris Kohn.

Suzanne Sandow

Pictured: Katherine Tonkin and the Apocalypse Bear (Brian Lipson) in Lally Katz's Apocalypse Bear Trilogy.

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.