REVIEW: Beast (Auckland Fringe)

The Mark of the Talented Performer [by Matt Baker]

Taylor Hall's Beast
Taylor Hall’s Beast

While the rise of clowning in the Auckland theatre scene is gaining momentum, Taylor Hall’s solo show is nonetheless a unique theatrical experience. An Auckland season of a Toi Whakaari monologue-derived solo-show  is a common one, but what Hall has created is a show that is a true culmination of all his training, including movement, mask, improvisation, clowning, mime, physical theatre, and even kung fu. It is an apt show to launch this young actor’s career, the proclaimed inexplicable deity character combining the skill and knowledge of his education and training, as well as his innocence and youth through clowning.

Hall has the audience eating out of the palm of his hands for the full hour. It’s a testament to not only his talent and charisma as a performer, but also the to the story he is telling. While the show itself builds exponentially, there is very little variation in the core interactions Hall has with his audience members, but the fact that these are based on such organic moments and that Hall has an incredibly vast vocabulary within a limited text, means there is a never a dull moment. Every eye is fixated on Hall as he surveys his audience, selecting them one by one for an intimate yet public engagement. Gaping mouths release bouts of laughter, vindicating the sustained silences. Bodies lean in, endorsing their willingness and allowing Hall to draw them further.

Hall reaffirms for the audience his role as our guide and the impact he has had on us, but it is not a polemic statement in a vain attempt to justify his show, it is a concluding declaration that reinforces the journey on which we have willingly let him take us. If theatre is a collective audience experience, Beast is an unquestionable success.

Beast plays as part of Auckland Fringe at The Basement until Feb 18. For details see The Basement.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Dione Joseph

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