Square Edge, FX Theatre, 7 The Square, Palmerston North

08/12/2020 - 12/12/2020

Production Details

Alice’s claustrophobic world is a black and white film turning slowly into a nightmare. Her reclusive grandfather has died, her mother needs her support, and the bullying at school is getting steadily worse. She struggles to overcome her introversion by confiding in her only friend, Sarah, and the audience. When Sarah betrays her, it’s the final thing pushing Alice towards an unspeakable revenge.

A scene from the play was adapted into the short story, Panorama, which was a prizewinner in the Olga Sinclair Short Story Contest (UK) and collected in the anthology, Spooks.

Square Edge, FX Theatre, 7 The Square, Palmerston North 
8-12 December 2020
7pm start
Tickets $30/$25 (opening night special) from eventfinda.co.nz

Reviews of previous productions:

Theatre , Solo ,

Engaging and nuanced, uncomfortably fascinating, invites introspection

Review by Adam Dodd 09th Dec 2020

In its title A Collection Of Noises suggests a tragic futility and meaninglessness in events unwitnessed and unengaged. Daily and in all corners of life events go without much notice; people without recognition; places without discovery. It is fitting then that A Collection Of Noises is being performed in an intimate space almost hidden away in the Square Edge Arts Centre – if you weren’t already aware it is there you might just miss it.

From the outset of the play, Alexander Sparrow (writer and director) invites us to observe the only character present in the play, Alice (Sarah Judd). Unspeaking and with solemn deliberation she examines articles around the stage as we enter into the performance space. Alice’s Aeschylean silence grows tense and suspenseful as a building rumble underscores her movements – moving between cosmetics, monochrome photographs, containers.

The set suggests a dresser table, a partially unpacked room. It has the economy of a pop-up performance, effective but occupying without fully claiming a space. All the more jarring, all is in greyscale – furniture, props, even Alice herself. The effect echoes the photographs strewn about the floor and pinned to the back wall. Photography is revealed later to be a focus of Alice’s studies and serves as a framing device for the play’s scenes.

The narration moves between accounts from Alice’s life and reflections on relationships with her mother, grandfather, a friend; starkly brutal snapshots or recollections hazily coming into focus, slowly developing as Alice agitates over them. Breaking these up are intimate moments of Alice crafting her appearance with brush and makeup, bathed under the red wash of a darkroom safelight. The effect is fragmentary and unsettling, forcing rapt attention to puzzle out meaning.

The success of this relies on the strength and nuance of the actor. Sarah Judd achieves her Alice masterfully, demonstrating a commanding subtlety and agility in inflection. Beginning from a seemingly flat and featureless characterisation, Judd’s delivery throughout is a study in emotional exhaustion and restraint gradually unravelling, measured with a perseverance that in the quiet moments shows her stifled emotions more profoundly. Alice’s control is not absolute, allowing Judd to play to some of the depths and heights of emotion – harrowing and raw as the control lapses.

While much of the physicality is subdued, Judd commits meaningfully and fully to both extremes: succeeding in keeping the otherwise restrained pace from feeling monotonous. Through her we get a sense of a young woman struggling to perform to the demands of an overbearing and resentful parent; a young woman slowly being interred as she fails to act on her own desires. 

Lasting only around forty-five minutes, the writing succeeds in exploring some nuanced themes of observation and obsession. Sparrow crafts this through conceits of scars and the sculpted appearance. Whether applied with a word, a look, a scalpel or a brush, our experiences and actions carve out both an actual and perceived identity. Our impression of Alice, captured by Judd, reflects this shaping – giving a sense of how narcissistic tendencies might be inflicted, inherited and turned inward. As an audience we are made complicit in this process, sitting in mute judgement as Alice solicits advice, affirmation, anything. Silent, we become voyeurs.

Having seen a few of his productions now, the sensitivity and awareness shown in both writing and direction are characteristic of Sparrow’s approach. Further polish and tightening is always possible but he well avoids overworking the piece.

Uncomfortably fascinating in a way that invites introspection. A Collection of Noises is an engaging and nuanced piece of fringe theatre – well worth experiencing.

Running until December 12, funds raised by the season go towards sending Judd to London to perform at Shakespeare’s Globe as a member of the 2021 Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand Young Shakespeare Company.


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