You know those friends who are so madly into each other, it's obvious to everyone they should be a couple? And they just shrug it off and continue on their merry way, probably share-housing together and watching late-night movies together and working on a creative project together, too, just for good measure? That's Jake (Travis Kesek) and Elise (Nicole Dimitriadis) in Body Language, and since we've all had friends like them (or been them), it's easy for audiences to get hooked on this new play from writer Luke Holmes.
Jake and Elise seem to be at the centre of a web of people trying to negotiate relationships with a member of the opposite sex relationships whose true natures cannot be read from the surface. Elise's friend Sarah (Charlie Hanson) is an awkward, garrulous type flattered to be invited to sit for a painting by artist Karl (David Ross). Nick (William Koutsoukis), a bit of an oaf, is mandated to see psychologist Sam (Brendan Layton) after an incident with an ex, whom he's still obsessing over. Small world, though; both shrink and patient are currently seeing the same sex worker (Morgan Powell), and she'll be an asset to the nicer guy of the pair.
Body Language is the first work to be produced by new independent theatre company Brave New Word, who stand out for having a clear mission statement and methodology from the get-go. The group, all graduates from the Australian Academy of Dramatic Art, take a new script they like and put it through three weeks of workshopping with the cast and creatives, during which anything can change. With the script finalised, the last weeks are spent rehearsing under the guidance of the director (for this show, Sepy Baghaei). It's an approach that borrows from existing script development programs, allowing some newer, greener theatre makers to benefit from taking part in a collaborative process with their peers.
Body Language has a unique charm which could well be a result of this. The scenes between Jake and Elise, in particular, are so natural, so warm and funny, they seem like the kind of thing that can only result from the actors bringing a lot of themselves to the roles. It's a little reminiscent of the Before Sunrise movies that way. Dancers Lillian Jean Shaddick and Paul Musumeci add some physical-theatre palate cleanser in between scenes, and although it's not as integrated with the rest of the play as it could be, it's great to see non-naturalism getting some love.
The fledgling company could afford to take even more risks next time some moments, especially as the characters' paths reached resolution, were a bit predictable, possibly the result of writing by committee. But overall, this is a sparky, entertaining show. It will be a lucky writer whose work is zeroed in on by Brave New Word next.