The Nest

Rita Dimasi

THE HAYLOFT PROJECT: With The Nest, the team at The Hayloft Project seem to have taken a different tack entirely to their last work Thyestes. The Nest is written by Benedict Hardie and Anne-Louise Sarks and is a work after Maxim Gorky’s The Philistines.
The Nest
The last work we all remember talking about from the impressive team that is The Hayloft Project was the fearless Thyestes. A work that left most audience members sitting breathless and in awe of this group of young actors and theatre makers, who managed to re-create and re-stage Greek Tragedy anew – something that many of us thought had surely been done to death. Now with The Nest, the team at Hayloft seem to have taken an entirely different tack. The Nest is written by Benedict Hardie and Anne-Louise Sarks and is a work after Maxim Gorky’s Мещанe (The Philistines). Born "Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov" Gorky’s dark experiences of life in Russia led him to choose the name Maxim Gorky (which means "the bitter one") as his writing pseudonym, and this is probably useful to know when looking to dive into the despair of not only Gorky’s work, but also Russian naturalism. Gorky's first play The Philistines deconstructs two significant events of the 20th century, namely the Russian revolution and the birth of naturalism in theatre. And Benedict Hardie together with Anne-Louise Sarks from The Hayloft Project, work both of these elements easily into the more contemporary script that is The Nest, a story based somewhere in an inner city home in Australia, full of inner city characters we all probably already know or have known in our own lives. And since nowadays a revolution can be fought against many foes in contemporary life – be it the greed of banks, climate change, or even the recent Wikileaks controversy, Hardie and Sarks’ take on what anarchy or a revolution is in this day and age, works beautifully in their narrative. It is the notion of naturalism however that sits, to my mind at least, somewhat uneasily with what is theatre of the 21st century. When film and television regularly provides us with various forms of naturalism, from weekly series, to daily melodramas, to even the nightly news, it can perhaps be challenging to connect with and value the purpose of naturalism in theatre today. Novelist Emile Zola (1840-1902) who was one of the great supporters of naturalist theatre, felt that theatre was lagging behind the truth that was the novel. He is quoted as saying "Either the theatre will die or it will become modern and naturalistic." Well Zola was wrong. Theatre of course didn’t die but perhaps what he understood as “modern and naturalistic”, is in 2010 something entirely altered. As Andrew Upton said when he wrote in 2007 for The Guardian about his own production of Gorky’s Philistines at the National Theatre in London, “…naturalism nowadays is about as eye-opening and challenging, as formally interesting, as a school speech day. Then, however [in late 19th - early 20th century Russia], it was a political decision to write these plays in this way - in Gorky's case in particular.” Of course this discussion about the function of naturalist theatre in contemporary society will not and should not end here, but for this work and this review the team at The Hayloft Project have yet again produced a memorable work. The ensemble cast work particularly well together, the stage and audience are as inseparable as they can be in a theatre round, and yes even if naturalism in 2010 is something other to what is was in the early 1900’s, The Hayloft Project is still one of the country’s more exciting theatre companies to watch out for. For more information on tickets and venue visit the ArtsHub Event Listing of The Nest. Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks Set Designer Claude Marcos Costume Designer Mel Page Lighting Designer Lisa Mibus Composer & Sound Designer Russell Goldsmith Producer Martina Murray With Sarah Armanious, Stuart Bowden, Stefan Bramble, Alexander England, Brigid Gallacher, Julia Grace, Benedict Hardie, Carl Nilsson-Polias, Meredith Penman and James Wardlaw Stage Manager Caitlin Byrne Publicist Trudi Sheppard Marketing Lisa Scicluna Production Assistant David MacGregor Photo by Fraser Marsden PLEASE NOTE THERE IS A STRICT LOCK OUT FOR EACH PERFORMANCE OF THE NEST.

About the author

Rita Dimasi is an Arts Hub reviewer.