Scene It: Apple Face, the trippiest theatre experience in town

May 8, 2018

Looking for a play with an unconventional narrative where everything makes sense, because nothing is supposed to? Hold on to your lei and rev your mutant vehicle, because the show for you is on stage at Alexander Upstairs until 19 May 2018.  

When the neo-noir Se7en-inspired question ‘What's in the box?’ gets a trippy, dark comedy ‘What's in the K-way bag?’ theatrical twist, Apple Face happens. That was my first thought as I was introduced to the hugger-mugger mind of the main character, Phil. Here, trance party meets Up the Creek thanks to the deliciously demented narrative penned by Pierre Malherbe, intuitively directed by Adrian Collins, and given enthralling and vivid on-stage expression by Juliette Pauling, Brett Williams, and Malherbe.   

There's a fine line between psychosis and psychology in this production, and Apple Face’s theatrical impact lies directly on that fine, decidedly blurred line. Between drug deals, a 40th birthday party at a trance festival, and ice-cream runs, the play loops to reveal various possible variations on the same scenarios. All these scenarios are dependent on the multiple personas of a girl (Pauling) —who may or may not be the crazy girlfriend of Phil’s friend Ryan (Williams)— as perceived by the perpetually anxious Phil (Malherbe). It's Constellations without the deeper meaning-of-life conundrum weighing down the vibe of the universe. Instead of exploring serendipitous love and eternal life, Apple Face sees looping universal revelations make way for the recurring theme of the power of drugs and DJs, measured against the commodity value of cranberry juice and gluten-free crackers.      

Somewhere within the show's quick-witted 65 minute run time you may find yourself wondering if you are the one ‘tripping bullets’ or if the actors/characters are on the strongest variety of hallucinogens and not sharing. But who cares!? Apple Face is fresh, different, and even a little bit scary between stunned laughter and nervous giggles —just like a midlife-crisis-inspired surreal comedy containing ‘fruity language’ should be.


At one stage, the play even tests both the actors’ and the audience's endurance levels to see how long it takes for chemistry and fascination to turn into PDA-related discomfort. A clever bit of subtext or simply a social experiment case study within a case study? Either way, it's ingenious and adds to the memorable nature of Apple Face.          

Admittedly, the hilariously crackbrained Apple Face is very niche and will not be everyone's kind of theatrical trip. However, if you've just returned from AfrikaBurn and need to decompress with much much screwy laughter, buy your tickets ASAP and thank me later. Tickets are available online at www.alexanderbar.co.za.

 

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