By Jacob Freda
Lost Connections has been described by director Dorottya Farkas as something that seeks to explore ‘our tendency to stray from the essential components of life, such as other people and meaningful values’. While such deeper meaning was unfortunately lost on me, what I found was one of the most thoroughly entertaining and well-made evenings of theatre that I have seen in a long time.
We are greeted upon entry with the cast warming up, which is done in a surprisingly naturalistic way. The first Act is full of moments of meta-theatre, as the players prepare for the show and try to work out their place in this ragtag family. Yet my one gripe with the show would be that nothing is really done with these stories beyond their introduction; it would have been rewarding to see these subplots developed more ambitiously, or else dropped altogether, since they only appear in the first half.
The cast are, in a word, phenomenal. There was not a single moment I thought that I was watching students perform a play, so effortlessly and professionally did they perform their cabaret acts, which included comedy, drag, and dance.
The ringmaster begins alone onstage, scrunched up on a chair like the physical embodiment of a snarl. Nicholas Tansley delightfully chews up the scenery with his grandiose speeches, twirling his cane between his black acrylic fingernails as he flits between charming and menacing. It is a shame that his energy seems to lag in Act 2, but his performance is nonetheless distinguished.
Alana Mann as the Clockwork Ballerina is simply mesmerising. Her facial expressions are masterfully precise and convey perfectly so many emotions without her needing to say a word. It doesn’t hurt that she also happens to be a fantastic dancer, though the poem she delivers at the end of her vignette felt a little unnecessary, since her story had already been so effectively told without speech.
I cannot praise Auguste Voulton enough for his performance as a curmudgeonly clown. He shuffles and slouches his way across the stage, a cross between childlike innocence and world-weary grumpiness that accounts for innumerable moments of excellent physical comedy, as well as some delightful improvisation through garbled snatches of French. Leon Neubauer perfectly complements Auguste as the other half of their comedy duo, straight-backed and quick-footed while the other stumbles and pratfalls in poor imitation.
Put simply, it is rare that you hear a room laughing as hard and as often as we were this evening, and for a pair of clowns to produce such a hearty reaction is really quite something.
Elias Schmied and Zoja Milovancevic both perform breath-taking dance routines. Schmied expertly holds our attention with his pop-and-lock ‘electric dance’. Meanwhile, ‘impressed’ does not even begin to describe my reaction to Milovancevic’s contortionism – safe to say, my jaw remained firmly on the floor for the entirety of her performance.
It is to Doryotta’s credit that she has sought these performers largely from outside the theatrical sphere, resulting in a night of eclectic and professional entertainment that does not limit itself to be defined purely as theatre.
Lighting and sound are also used simply but effectively, with Tech Director Fergus Carver making good use of Collingwood’s facilities for some particularly creative moments.
All this high praise comes from someone who has never been the biggest fan of physical theatre, or the circus. It says a lot about the quality of Lost Connections, therefore, that I found myself supremely entertained by the experience, and I thoroughly recommend that anyone with time on their hands checks out this show as soon as they can.
Image: Wrong Tree