My Life in Boxes


Thursday 19th February, 2015

Together, Tarah Carey and Tim Rutty are the powerful duo behind Gravity Dolls, a new collaboration of circus and theatre talent. Using the complementary skills of Rutty’s circus finesse and Carey’s strong writing and powerful acting, Gravity Dolls embody a performance that inhabits the whole performance space; from floor to ceiling they use the magic of circus to enchant us and pull us into their story and world.

Last night I attended Gravity Dolls’ current production ‘My Life in Boxes’, a story that explores a widow, Elise (played by Tarah Carey), struggling to cope with packing up her life and letting go of those impractical and sentimental things. Objects that serve as evidence that she once had a ‘happily every after’, and proof of the life of her husband, Dr. Teddy (played by Tim Rutty). The story unfolds through flashbacks as the council arrive to ultimately clean up and take away Elises’ ‘Life in Boxes’.

‘My Life in boxes’ is an absolute gem. It reminded me of all the things I love about live performance. It had me entertained and intellectually stimulated, the hour passed before I knew it. As a piece of theatre, ‘My Life in Boxes’ capitalises on the talents of its creators and performers. It uses every element of production (circus, script, sound track, performance, set) to tell a heartfelt and important story in an extraordinary way. This story is important because it vibrates with the message: life’s short, smile. A message that seems only too real in a week where current events reminds us that running to work or eating berries can lead to tragedy; we never know what is around the corner.

What separates this performance from a work in development and classifies it as a polished piece is that, despite circus and physical performance being the star of this production, the script is strong enough to stand in its own right as a consolidated and strong story. It is excellently written with a clear narrative, moments of poetry, incredibly human dialogue, and lovable, well-rounded characters.

The circus feats and tricks are beautifully woven into the story and characters. Like a good musicals’ use of song, the physical components happen because they must. They not only complement, but develop the narrative and provide a particularly special insight into the inner emotions of the characters. The physical devices such as hula hooping, swinging from ropes, being suspended mid air, dance, and acrobatics provide a strong aesthetic of crisp shapes, and powerful metaphor. For example, when presenting to a board of philanthropists Elise gets momentarily flung into the air, beautifully portraying that moment in high stake situations when something goes wrong and it feels like the floor has fallen away from beneath us. Another moment I loved was when Elise is reflecting on the downward spiral of her life and Dr. Teddy is literally spiralling downward through the space.

Carey’s performance as Elise is compelling. She is a remarkable performer with the power to trap audiences into hanging on her every word. The energy of both players was impressive, Carey and Rutty performed each trick effortlessly never breaking focus or losing character despite being, literally, thrown upside down. It was clear Rutty’s expertise is in circus, his attention to detail and confidence in each stunt was palpable. Next to Carey, Rutty’s acting experience was noticeably less – the main difference being in his voice, which was less grounded and more ‘performed’. However it didn’t subtract from the calibre of the piece; the chemistry and connection between the two performers was magical.

There were some incredibly powerful moments in this production, and many were achieved through perfectly timed subtleties and nuances: a sudden blood nose that’s brushed off, a cough in the background, a moments silence, a beautiful physical portrayal of what it feels like when you fantasise someone is there, next to you – but they are not.

However, it wasn’t all grim. The fun, low stakes, audience participation, and lovable, cheeky characters added humour and lightness. The audience interaction was a device well-used, it set up the fun and trusting environment and created a sense of community. By breaking the fourth wall and inviting us into their world, Rutty and Carey had us engaged and totally invested in each moment.

The soundtrack complemented these moments, however music and soundscape was perhaps the main element that I felt was less developed and polished. The big songs could have been bigger (not louder), perhaps a different song choice in some moments would be an interesting way to progress and keep ‘My Life in Boxes’ on it’s toes. However, this production is already a well developed and polished piece, all it really needs (and deserves) is the opportunity to entertain and engage many more audiences in its lifetime.


Gravity Dolls presents ‘My Life in Boxes’

MELBOURNE | 18-21 FEB | The Collingwood Spiegel Tent

ADELAIDE | 24 FEB – 8 MARCH | The Lotus Palace

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