Of The Causes of Wonderful Things
Solo theatre pieces have always tended to be intimate in nature, as they explore the depths of emotion the individual actor is both capable of experiencing and of conveying to the audience. Much more so, contemporary solo productions continue to incorporate an even deeper level of psychological involvement, forcing the actor not only to perform, but to compose the work on the most elusive levels of his or her subconscious. It is from this secret lockbox of creativity that Talya Rubin emerged with her latest and most challenging work, Of The Causes of Wonderful Things - set to captivate Melbourne audiences.
"It is an unusual one," shares the Montreal-born, now Sydney-based performer. "It came out of a devising exercise I had done, where there were these sections around the room with different objects. After about an hour, I came up with this short piece that felt like it came out of thin air. Suddenly, there were all these characters and there was this world that I didn't quite understand, and it all seemed so compelling."
Rubin's creative process may seem unorthodox to those less familiar with this sort of methodology, but it is clear that the performer's improvisation training has continued to develop her strong sense of work, as well as build a suitable reputation for her talents within independent theatre company, Too Close to the Sun.
"The writing and the performing are very different processes," Rubin explains thoughtfully. "A lot of the work that I do in theatre is through the body and through improvisation and objects and characters and transformation that I do. So it's actually a lot of work in action versus on the page. I've found a balance, where I'll actually do a lot of improvising work and then I'll write stuff down that has come out of that, but it's almost like a dialogue between the two. Things are always evolving, and this particular piece, a lot of the impulse came out of the world I created. So I think that if I were a playwright that sat down and wrote and then tried to stand up and perform it, I think it would present a lot of challenges. But because I'm very aware that this work is coming from quite a different place to just simply writing, I'm very conscious of that and try to keep it more of an organic process that's constantly unfolding."
In the case of Of The Causes of Wonderful Things, Rubin was so struck and mystified by her own creative impulses that she couldn't seem to forget the content she had conjured so miraculously. "It all happened during this one exercise... There was this bag filled with dice, five to be exact, and to me it was this representation of five children that had gone missing. Very strange characters continued to emerge from this devising exercise… There was this Japanese man who spoke with a southern accent, and that just seemed so incongruous, and I loved that. There's actually some humour, but also a sense of tragedy that emerged, and the world that came out was just so compelling to me. To be honest with you, I wasn't quite sure what to do. It was very odd and I wasn't sure how it all fit together, but I knew it was really strong for me, so I kept it."
At first glance, Of The Causes of Wonderful Things is the story of Esther Drury, a women whose 5 nieces and nephews mysteriously vanish while under her care. But it is also a story that reflects Rubin's own personal journey, as Esther is forced to come to terms with the fact that she may not want to discover the answers to the mysteries that lie ahead. It is a performance that promises to be rich in texture, character development and emotion. From the depths of a solo performers subconscious mind, we the audience are sure to find elements that we identify with; that both disturb and intrigue us on a level we may not be able to completely understand. "It's surprising what materials you have in you. I feel like I'm working with my own materials, and yet, I have no personal relationship to children going missing or this kind of darkness. It's not something that obsesses me or part of my daily life. It's really more so 'where did this come from?' This mysterious place, and it's like this story wants to be told. These characters need to speak. I don't really know why, but I'm going to trust it. Even the Japanese elements stayed in, and in the American south with these missing children, the mystery that unfolds, it all emerged… It was all there."
Of The Causes of Wonderful Things will run for a short season at Arts House, Meat Market from August 11 - 13. Tickets are $30 full price or $25 concession. For bookings, visit artshouse.com.au or phone (03) 9322 3713.