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Review – Spectate: ground-breaking new production


By Nathan Sibthorpe

Directed by Nathan Sibthorpe

Presented by Metro Arts

Sue Benner Theatre

Metro Arts

Brisbane City

The show runs until November 18. Duration 90 minutes without interval. Bookings:

In a time where it is becoming increasingly competitive to have audiences come out to see shows at the theatre and where “audiences are the most exciting thing about [it]” as noted by director Nathan Sibthorpe, it is vital that theatre keeps moving forward. To find the new in theatre and performing arts can be a challenge and sometimes a flop or a triumph, depending on how it is executed. However the show I saw last night was definitely something more towards the latter.

Spectate, presented by Metro Arts is just one of those shows that incorporates the magic of the past, in this case literally, with that of the here and now to create something novel and original, moving performance art forward into the future.

Touting on their synopsis that this is a show about Houdini, it says little for what is really in store for the audience. What was fascinating and new about this show, chiefly, was the use of headphones as a means to convey and communicate.

The dialogue was heard entirely through this humble technology and with clever, witty soliloquies punctuating the still, somewhat stuffy air. This manner of receiving theatre was entirely new to me and really pushed the boundaries of art to a new plain.

This is really in keeping with the sort of shows Metro Arts likes to put on and I really enjoyed it. Not only did they change the way the theatre was heard but also the way it was seen. With live streaming, recording and mixing of projected film on stage, entangled with the live acting, miming and set moving performed on stage I was really astonished by the level of different I was being shown.

Counterpilot, the troupe performing Spectate, is “a transmedia performance collective co-founded by Sandra Carluccio and directed by Nathan Sibthorpe.” This somewhat vague title in transmedia performance paired with the term “interactive performance work” is, to me, what the future of theatre will be.

Toby Martin as Houdini cut an impressive figure on stage with his piercing eyes and chiselled features. The bizzare and hilarious twist at the end of the show which saw a short clip of Dr Hospital featuring a cameo by stage and film actor Hugh Parker was one of the highlights of Spectate even if it felt a little out of context.

The final element of surprise that this show offered was the live texting of audience members. Before the show, during the box office hours and when collecting tickets, audience members were asked to give their phone number anonymously. Our phones were to be kept on and on silent through the show where we began to receive texts from a character in the show.

This odd yet intriguing aspect of the show rounded it out at the end and left the audience with a poignant message. All in all Spectate was a ground-breaking new production that took over two years to create. It was novel, sometimes fun, sometimes relatable and definitely interesting.

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