Tiny Universe review

21.05.21

Tiny Universe by Shopfront Arts Co-op and Milk Crate Theatre. Image by Clare Hawley.

One of the many things that makes theatre an interesting medium to create work for is the many forms and styles that are on hand for artists and companies to use when exploring the ideas and themes that centre their work and allow them to inhabit the stage.

This is especially true for devised ensemble work and its also why I have found it to be one of the more challenging forms to critique as opposed to traditional text-based work – the audience is walking into the show with no more than the title of the piece and whatever brief information has been provided in the program.

Tiny Universe by Shopfront Arts Co-op and Milk Crate Theatre. Image by Clare Hawley.

It is this headspace that I was in when watching Tiny Universe, a co-production between Shopfront Arts Co-op and Milk Crate Theatre, at PACT this weekend. But when viewing it with the intent to review, it became clear that even without the familiar structures of a play there are still clear yardsticks that can be used to evaluate a production which are the fundamentals of performance, ensemble work and clarity of vision.

And I am happy to say that Tiny Universe fulfils all three requirements in its exploration of the complexities of our inner world and inner voice as referenced by the title. The ensemble cast of eight all worked cohesively, maintaining the energy and rhythm of the piece despite never physically interacting with each other. Given the introspective nature of the piece, it would have been easy for the performers to be selfish and vie for dominance, but a balance was maintained between the cast while allowing for the idiosyncrasies and quirks between the personas that were created for the piece.

Tiny Universe by Shopfront Arts Co-op and Milk Crate Theatre. Image by Clare Hawley.

The balance between humour and more poignant moments was also present. This also allowed the titular concept of our own tiny universes to be both our happy place as well as the outlet for doubts and anger. The brisk one-hour length also helped in allowing for authenticity and not indulging in what could easily have been a full-on trauma session.

As the piece was also most dialogue-based movement was minimal, but the technical choices allowed for the overall concept to be brilliantly expressed from a visual perspective, as the actors inhabited their own small rooms of a 2-tiered white structure with only their personalities and a few choice props to suggest character. Lighting was also used effectively, ranging from candy-coloured hues when representing the different personas at the start to the neon electric tones to enhance mood when shifts occurred during the performance.

It should also be commended that the rules of the world were kept consistent and avoided the cheesy gimmick of the actors self-consciously breaking free from their own space. Overall, it was a strong effort and kudos should be granted: experimental theatre is not always everyone cup of tea, but judging from the audience reaction Tiny Universe was enjoyed.

Thomas, 26

Shopfront Arts Co-op and Milk Crate Theatre’s co-production of Tiny Universe is playing at PACT until May 29. Book your tickets here.

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