Review / Miller’s ‘ambitious and moving’ show

theatre / “Tristan: A Song for the Superior Man”, presented by Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres with Little Dove Theatre Art, November 28 to December 3.  Reviewed by JOHN LOMBARD.

Tristan, played by Raoul Craemer. Photo by Andrew Sikorski.

FEW artists sign their work like Chenoeh Miller. Her creative preoccupations are all on display at various points in “Tristan: A song for the superior man”, with repetitive actions, slow movements that almost become invisible, and strenuous activity that pushes the performers to a physical limit.
What distinguishes Tristan from Miller’s prior work is a new confidence with words.
Early on Raoul Craemer delivers a poetic monologue that paints a vivid visual picture, and it is striking in a Little Dove production to see words take centre stage like this.
In Tristan, Miller is interested in telling men’s stories. A cheeky Nick Delatovic informs the audience that the stories have been shared by the cast and then collaboratively transformed into fantasy. He cautions the audience to be wary of what we believe by adding that there is in fact nobody called Tristan in the show.
The engaged physicality of the performers developed through an intensive workshop also came across in the delivery of the monologues, which had clarity, confidence and alacrity. Chris Endry in particular captivated the audience with an intense monologue that could have been a raw confession or half-fantasy.
The choice of music was excellent, with Oliver Levi-Malouf’s drag routine to the song “Holding Out For A Hero” perking up the audience, and influences as diverse as classical music and Beyoncé adroitly deployed.
Erica Field is a vital inclusion whether genderless or a contrasting female presence. However the performance gets bogged down in the uncertainty of the director, and the performer, in how as women they can create a show about men – or whether men can be understood at all.
In some sequences Erica even becomes the point of view character, struggling to comprehend men stripped of individuality by mechanical actions, matching suits and dumb grins. The contrast with both Erica and Oliver’s drag seems to suggest that masculinity strips men of life and identity.
However the performance finds the essence and joy of manliness in a sequence that adapts a schoolyard game, achieving the show’s goal of dispelling pervasive negative generalisations about men.
Tristan is ambitious, extremely moving, and takes Little Dove confidently into new creative territory.

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