The Temple is a co-production with the innovative Irish company Pan Pan. It is provocative theatre at its most acute. Five actors (Alijin Abella, Ash Flanders, Genevieve Giuffre, Mish Grigor and Marcus McKenzie) work as a tight, well-oiled and rehearsed ensemble. They portray a group of characters - young contemporary individuals - engaged in a self-lead residential retreat.
We seem to be watching a kind of freeform interactive experience, presumably, inspired by the cult of self/self indulgence. In this ‘orgy of self’ the use of a cocktail of psychedelics is employed assumedly to plumb the depths of self-reflective personal insights and enhance participants’ enlightenment.
This co-created (Gavin Quinn, the cast and Nicola Gunn) work requires cerebral, intense and focused performances. All five actors are stunningly and rivetingly fascinating in their roles. Emotional shifts are strangely subtle in execution and convincingly real.
I am guessing the process of creating has been a journey into the unknown that has required commitment and courage in droves from all involved, and am left very curious as to what degree it was lead by the Director Gavin Quinn and co-creator Nicola Gunn, and what were the stimuli, touchstones, parameters, and expectations consecrated in its development.
Ambiguity rules. Little is explained either as the work progresses, or, indeed, in the program. So it is the type of theatre that allows for, or more aptly demands, personal reflection and interpretation from its audience. It could be referencing religious/spiritual groups, health and yoga retreats, or indeed reality shows where people and cooped up together and encouraged to vent, lash out and behave shoddily.
Early in the evening I was reminded of the 1970’s text America Hurrah, where in Interview a number of personal stories of distressed and alienated individuals are uncovered and conveyed. The actors are required to portray sensitive and humiliated individuals who feel raw, exposed and vulnerable.
In The Temple scene changes are sharp, loud and jarring and interactions are often brutal and cruel. And it is funny – clever funny and shocking funny and ruthlessly callous funny.
Status is apparently fluid and some characters seem intrinsically driven to have the upper hand. They display little compassion or concern for each other. One particular character appears to become the scapegoat and is most often targeted for ridicule by the others.
Described as Absurdist by Director Gavin Quinn, it could be interpreted as a cathartic experience; watching fairly intimate psychological cruelty directed to others in a theatrical (make believe) setting. Perhaps it could be viewed as an antidote to the barrage of unrealistically positive posts we witness on Facebook and through other social media sites.
Vital, challenging and immediate theatre that may leave some wanting and others satiated.
Photographer: Pia Johnson
Directed by Gavin Quinn
Set and Lighting Design – Aedin Cosgrove
Costume Design – Harriet Oxley
Sound Design – Tom Backhaus
Cast – Aljin Abella, Ash Flanders, Genevieve Giuffre, Mish Griger and Marcus McKenzie