This is the story of a museum, and it’s curator, caught somewhere between any possible anywhere.
A reflection on the lost and found, the possible and the forgotten, Rian Howlett‘s Museum of Lost Things is one man’s look into the in-between. The inter-dimensional portals and landscapes are literal and metaphorical as the plays dives straight into its stated themes. Written and performed by Howlett, the Museum of Lost Things manages to build a fantastical landscape with little more than an invitation and an enthusiastic audience.
The Swamp is the small outdoor space of Bar Ampere, adored with overhanging fake greenery and fairy lights. It’s a cozy space with a beer garden vibe that Howlett has managed to subvert into something slightly otherworldly, fitting his inter-dimensional setting. Bowtied and shoeless, Howlett greets his audience and asks them how the trip through the portal was. After a little coaxing, the crowd relax their disbelief and settle into the dimension of lost things, in which the Curator is stuck. Alone and unsure, he’s started a museum, a catalogue of lost things, objects and their attached memories fallen victim to shipwrecks, history or just the back of the couch.
Howlett’s speech sounds like prose – which is not to say it is prosaic, in fact it’s highly lyrical – but rather that it at times presents like refined paragraphs rather than an open monologue. It sounds like a text that would be fun to read as well as perform (and to see performed). His Curator is smart yet scattered, an engaging presence aided by a funny script and a charismatic performance. Howlett taps into a kind of boundless boisterousness, a surprising physicality that complements the wordiness of the script, providing the Curator’s descriptive flights with an emotive anchor. It helps too that Howlett is an utterly gracious performer. Confronted with interruptions (both from the audience and their dinner orders), he’s able to adapt without descending into an improv bit. Instead, he builds these interruptions into the flow of the play, balancing them with the existing, intended pace.
Towards the climax and denouement though, Howlett loses some of his pacing as he rapidly explains a piece of audio he’s decided to remove from the show. This deduction leaves a gap he has to fill quickly with exposition, something that Howlett had managed to avoid too much of up until this point (always impressive in a one-man production). Even with this though, Howlett manages to pull the story to a satisfying conclusion with levity and a couple of asides to aid his point.
While not a show that lands an emotional point, Museum of Lost Things works because it prompts the audience to think, to consider the functions of storytelling and narratives of self, as well as how objects carry and convey meaning. Though perhaps not accessible to every child, due to the intellectual script and Howlett’s rapid-fire delivery, it’s easy to see how it’d be a hit with clever, precocious kids starting to think about thinking and adults who aren’t afraid of a little inter-dimensional travel.
Museum of Lost Things is on at the Swamp, Bar Ampere, at 7:30pm from 24 – 26 June 2018. Tickets are available via eventbrite and at the door.