Fortyfivedownstairs is a fantastic venue, the space allows for numerous styles of performances. And in some of these performances it can seem that the space itself outshines the production. This, unfortunately, was the case for Triumph from The New Working Group.
The show is split into three parts, all focusing on characters that appear to thrive on the sympathy of others and need to be wanted. The performance focuses on the narcissistic tendencies of humans, and those that take it to a morally wrong level.
The first part focuses on a woman who is dishonest regarding her experience during 9/11. Claiming she was a survivor of the bombing and lost her fiancé during. This is clearly based around the story of Tania Head, who famously lied about being a survivor and rose to fame as the leader of a support group for survivors. The performance is a mix of visual and dialogue, with two television screens broadcasting images in lieu of any speech from the actors. This doesn’t necessarily work though; the remaining dialogue seems forced and overdramatic. The abundance of Australian accents during the support group also seems out of place, it would seem more logical for American accents to be present during a performance that highlights after long-lasting effects the attack had on the country.
Part two is centered on a young girl that is frequently hospitalised with no obvious cause. Most of the performance is dialogue between the mother and daughter, with inserts from others in the role of doctors or nurses. This part could possible be based off the case of Katie Ripstra, though a quick Google search will confirm that there is a disturbing amount of mothers who have poisoned their children for attention and sympathy. The actress who portrays the mother in this scene is superb, and this particular part of the show is arguably the best of the whole thing.
The third part is oddly disassociated from the other two, which had an obvious focus on people that make unethical choices because of a need to be needed. This part focuses on two men that have chosen to end their lives together, out in a forest where they are digging their own graves. The two actors are excellent, playing off each other very well. This is the only part that doesn’t overly use the television screens and it’s better off for it. The appearance of the same actress from the previous part, the young sick girl, was confusing. Especially since she was dressed still in the hospital gown she wore as the other character. It was an odd choice, leaving the impression that the two parts were intended to be linked.
Triumph attempts to create three stories that are meant to leave the audience thinking and discussing, but it lacks the depth in these stories to fulfil this. The common identifying theme of narcissism that runs prevalent through the first two parts is lost by the end, leaving the third act disconnected from the others. All three have odd moments that brought laughter from the audience that didn’t seem to be the intended reaction.
The best praise can be given for the set design. Each part is set up behind a separate curtain, the performance working its way backwards throughout. The final act, the two men digging their own graves were superbly set up. The stage was transformed into a forest, with the actors actually digging up piles of dirt from the stage floor. The lighting, also, was a notable aspect, it brought a sense of atmosphere and completion to the show.
Triumph had great aspirations, wanting to create a memorable play that would have audiences commiserating on the actions of others. It fell short however, feeling incomplete by the end.
Triumph is showing at fortyfivedownstairs from February 19th to the 28th. Tickets can be purchased at fortyfivedownstairs.com