‘WHAT IF’, created, written and directed by Mahalia Barr-Mashei with music by Justin Pounsett, tells the story of Maya through a unique combination of song, the spoken word and contemporary dance.
The performance opens with a short film which sets the tone for the rest of the piece, as Maya navigates the complex world of relationships and managing past pain. On stage we are introduced to the duality of Maya (played by both Barr-Mashei and Kelly O’Brien), who appears to be trapped in an unfulfilled relationship and haunted by the ghosts of her past. The contemporary dancers of the piece act as an extension of Maya’s subconscious – at times the angels, and at other times the demons, jostling for control of Maya’s mind.
The ethereal harmonies of Barr-Mashei and O’Brien captivate, while the dance sequences provide an intensity to the most raw, emotion-charged moments of the performance.
‘WHAT IF’ is somewhat restricted by its sixty minute running time. We are led to invest in Maya’s journey, and the performance ends somewhat suddenly, leaving the audience in a state of ambiguity about the protagonist’s future.
According to Barr-Mashei, “ ‘WHAT IF’ stands for much more than the title… it stands for living our truth and staying real in our choices.” There is a truth in the emotional quagmire that is Maya’s story, even if it is dark and confronting, and there is a power in the way the piece addresses the complexities of love, loss and regret.
‘WHAT IF’ is playing at Tandanya Theatre from 1-5 March as part of the 2017 Adelaide Fringe.
3 1/2 stars
Reviewed by Rachel Gould