Twilight of the Mind: Review of Perth Theatre Company’s It’s Dark Outside
Perth Theatre Company is currently touring their show It’s Dark Outside (2013). This is not a play in the traditional sense; it is better described as an atmospheric performance piece. Creators/performers Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs and Tim Watts have taken the rather somber subject of dementia as their inspiration. No dialogue is to be found in this 60 minute play, instead, through the use of mime, puppetry and other multimedia techniques, the group tells the story of an elderly man who leaves his home one night and ventures out into the wilderness.
The piece is quite episodic as it charts his various interactions with what we are led to understand to be his own thoughts. As such, the group creates a representation of the world through the eyes of a dementia sufferer. The old man struggles to keep hold of his own thoughts and memories, but bit by bit they all slip away.
The whole piece is played on a black stage, a gentle yet dark atmosphere that transforms into the various worlds of the little old man. Though black box theatre is seemingly done and dusted, it works for this ensemble. Perhaps the most affecting part is the use of shadow on a scrim which reveals the menacing figure that pursues the old man. The simple manipulation of backlighting is able to expand and distort the figure very quickly reflecting the way the mind can warp and change reality.
As a performance It’s Dark Outside is spectacular. The skill of the cast largely ensures the piece’s success. There is much dexterity and fluidity amongst them. It is a pleasure to see these performers play with the forms – puppetry, mask, digital animation and live performance. Arielle Gray portrays the loveable old man whilst Tim Watts brings great theatricality to the sinister pursuer in the shadows. Both performers, along with Chris Isaacs, should be commended for their work on stage.
The piece was accompanied by Rachael Dease’s musical composition, both poignant and melancholy; splashes of colour in the score brought complexity. Its haunting signature tune “Take my hand when it’s Dark outside” particularly resonated throughout the space.
Evidently, a piece such as this is nothing short of being beautiful and captivating. The creators and puppeteers have used the arts to explore dementia with great respect and grace, though perhaps at times their attempts to tug on the heartstrings were more overt than necessary. Anyone with any experience caring for a loved one who has suffered from this illness will undoubtedly find this piece very affecting.
It’s Dark Outside is playing at the Riverside Theatre until the 29th of May, but is touring around the rest of the country. For details on its run see: