Declan Dowling
22nd Sep 2022

Fresh from NIDA’s Festival of Emerging Artists (FOEA) HYDRARCHOS has been dug up this week at the Flightpath Theatre Marrickville as part of this year's returning Sydney Fringe Festival. Written by University of Wollongong graduate Grace Davidson Lynch, HYDRARCHOS centers around the legendary Sea Serpant Skeleton of the same name supposedly discovered by Albert Karl Koch towards the middle of the 19th century. While the archaeological find may have been a hoax, its influence on the world around it inspired people for generations... and not always in the most positive way.

Director Rikiah Lizarraga and Designer Blake Hedley have created a minimalist wonderland, full of everything that isn’t there. The bare walls of the space punctuated by effective costuming and lighting designs make the tiny flightpath theatre seem like it is filled with the sprawling landscape of archaeological sites, lecture halls, museum catacombs and the vast hellish void Koch builds in his mind on the cusp of the impending downfall of his career.

However, those who have come to see the magnificence of the Hydrarchos suspended in the air in all its puppeteered glory as in its initial FOEA run at NIDA, prepare for sad surprises. Due to what I can only assume is the restrictive nature of the venue on this front, and perhaps the budget allocations of this remount, Hydrarchos remains (for the most part) stationary, unassembled and on the floor.

What does elevate this show beyond the heights of the low sitting skeleton however are Grace Davidson-Lynch’s script, and the ever-illuminating prescience of leading man Flynn Barnard as Koch. Barnard radiates charisma in glaring waves which fall on the audience with ripples of smiles and warmth which can be felt from the front row to the gods. But he is not all captivating accents and giddy knees, he presents an effortless storytelling skill, storytelling skills can be common, but an effortless one is a seldom seen treat.

Grace Davidson-Lynch’s script is structurally divine, always leaving us on the edge, always taking on an unexpected angle, always teasing the audience towards it’s point without making it until the revelatory end. Some scenes in this production were performed in a fashion a touch too histrionic for my taste, but layer for layer and blow for blow the text is mesmerizingly good and I look forward to seeing it’s development in future.

The rest of the cast was sound and had a delightful insular intimacy between them. A particular stand out was the alluring spirit of the great Sea Serpent herself Sarah Greenwood, whose delicious delivery was reminiscent of both ‘The Snake’ and ‘The Plume of Fire’ which represent Satan in Martin Scorsese’s 1988 epic ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’. (For those unfamiliar check out this clip)

You will indeed have a fine time at this remount which rather pleasingly leaves you with more questions than it answers... just not the kind of questions you expected to be left with.

Therein lies the allure.