Reviewed by Ellen Becker
If you wish to dabble in Sydney's fringe theatre circuit, a great taster to whet your appetite would be the Old 505's Seeing Unseen. Spotting the unassuming frontage from Elizabeth Street is the first challenge, rewarded by the delight of wending your way up the graffiti soaked rabbit warren of the stairwell (I've heard the elevator is an art gallery too), until you find a little nook of a theatre, so fiercely intimate you walk around the performers to clamber to your seats.
A man and a woman cohabit the space, in a relationship but somehow strangers. A figure stands by them always, taking note of their every action, telling us their personality profiles, administering consumer satisfaction surveys and with a peculiar penchant for lists and animal stories. He's there to drum up fear, then placate your concerns with drugs and distractions. An external consciousness that files away your memories like index cards, but buyer beware - in keeping with the Orwellian logic that if there isn't a word for it, it doesn't exist, if an occurrence isn't filed (your morning coffee perhaps) it didn't happen. This ever-accessible personal assistant keeps the minutiae of life handy, so you can focus on, well... What, exactly?
At just over an hour, this exceptional piece of theatre packs a weighty punch, but avoids feeling patronising or didactic. Collectively devised by the actors and director Gareth Boylan, the hilarious and potent script has traces of Beckett and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, but possesses a unique sensibility forged by creative, informed intellects. As the everyday couple, Michael Pigott and Kerri Glassock concoct a strange chemistry, at once desirous and distant, while Michael Cullen morphs stealthily from impotent bystander to sinister mastermind. It's physical too, quick to punctuate the quiet moments with a frenetic build and then back to quiet again, using the small stage and minimal design to great affect. Seeing Unseen is engaging, invigorating theatre that lingers in the mind long after the final bow, like all great theatre should.
Seeing Unseen is playing at the Old 505 Theatre on Elizabeth Street until the 26th April.