Tucked away at the end of a cobblestoned alleyway set in Melbourne’s Carson Place, is a doorway overcast with the kind of warm, fluttering lights that would confuse you into thinking that you had just walked into the set of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Continue your way up the stairs, and you’ll too begin to wonder if you were transported into another time and place (or had one too many quiet ones) as the minimalistic interior of your familiar old haunt slides away into a world of eclectic kitsch that The Butterfly Club is so well known for.
Nestling into our seats at the venue’s small and intimate theatre, we await the opening of Sly Rat Theatre Company’s first production of 2015; Steven McCall’s, Pluck! a gripping black comedy and melodrama that grapples head on with love, lust, God and what (if anything) it means to be a man. Starring acclaimed actor Brendan Ewing as Dr. Pluck, Pluck! follows the story of a psychologist who is trying to get his marriage back on track.
From the get-go, the production is a winner. The best I’ve seen in a long time. Not only is the stage play laugh out loud funny and highly relevant (insert those conversations had with mother about what she really thinks of your latest love interest), but beautifully executed by McCall’s talented troupe of actors, including Todd Levi of the ABC’s Parer’s War (2014) success. What is most impressive, however, is the production’s clever set design and how it allowed the transition between multi-location scenes to be so seamless.
Pluck! is a one act-play, and on stage at The Butterfly Club, there is little room for elaborate hoo-ha. A set designer must be smart with how they use a confined space, in order to ensure that the set remains true to the dramaturgy of the play, while making sense to its audience. Props used need to be manageable for all stage hands and able to signify multiple scene locations, whilst maintaining the flow of production when props are moved on and off the stage. Easier said than done, but Pluck! nailed it.
Using nothing but six wooden boxes and a few props hidden within, the audience is transported to all locations within the production, which can only support the strength of the stage play itself, as well as its direction and execution. Looking back, I am impressed at how well I was able to mentally conceptualise the accoutrements missing from the set, which goes to show how extravagant sets are not always a necessity for production success. In fact, the ability for a playwright to write and design a production that will push its audience to create their own imagery, will give a viewer a very personal account of the production that is fluid and limitless. The synergy between dramaturgy and set design, and its ability to encourage the audience to imagine the finer details, becomes the greater tool.
Nominated for the ARTRAGE Theatre Award 2013, Pluck! is gut-wrenchingly funny; a must-see for the winter season.
Tickets and information can be found here.