Reviewed September 27, 2009
Bustown is one of those rare plays that creates its own universe – The Wonderful World of Dissocia was another example this year, playing next door at STC. Writer Lachlan Philpott, who just won the Griffin Award, gets in and amongst language, cutting it up and making something new.
The futuristic desert setting is reminiscent of Mad Max, from the pigeon English to the re-hashed costumes made of scraps of clothing, and the re-appropriation of twentieth century detritus, such as hub caps, bus seats and tyres, into functional umbrellas, beds. It’s as thought humanity landed on the moon of its own past, and is re-discovering it with fresh and curious eyes.
The inhabitants of Bustown are suffering from a collective amnesia. Having lost touch with the rest of the world -“The Other” – they live an isolated communal existence in the desert, under the watchful eye and guidance of “mother” Sylvia Steering (Stefanie Smith), who has devised a set of daily rituals that act like social controls, and keep the community together: don’t talk about “The Other”; wait for “The Driver”; every day, practice “the Remembering”.
The sheer “otherness” of the setting and dialogue sucks you into their world, and the staging at the ATYP creates a little universe within its large wooden pillars where you can almost see the sand and feel the heat. Seeing this play on a gusty Sunday afternoon, with the fierce harbour winds banging at the walls, didn’t hurt at all.
Hanging from thick ropes laced with tyres, four Punkbirds act as kind of Greek chorus to the action, and as foils to our protagonists. Like the people of Bustown they seem immobilised, the feathers useless, their will to fly atrophied over the years. But our young characters, on the edge of adulthood, are far more determined to fly the coop.
Young would-be lovers Cressida (Laura Turner) and Axel (Peter Jamieson) are spurred on by a cascade of unanswered questions, adolescent angst and burgeoning sexuality. The most interesting character, however – and the most compelling performance – is Emily Morrison as the tomboyish inventor Cortina, who invents things like “flying machines”, but makes the curious decision to stay in Bustown, while helping her sibling and his girlfriend escape.
Sarah Hansen was also thoroughly rambunctious and outrageously cute as the slightly crazed toddler Corolla, who has a more-than-healthy relationship with her imaginary friend Coupe (Angela Sceats).
This thoroughly absorbing production lingered in my imagination far longer than many more cerebral theatre offerings. The experience was only marred by the audience member eating trail mix in our row, I’m not sure who wanted to punch him more, me or the director.
The Seymour Centre
Reviewed: 18th, September, 2009
Bondi Dreaming explores the lives of three men on death row in a Balinese prison, and tells the story through their imaginations and events experienced in the past.
Inspired by the Bali Nine, writer and director, Sam Atwell gives the audience a taste of the loneliness and despair experienced by three friends from Blacktown who all face a bleak future after a greedy venture results in a botched drug deal and their subsequent arrests.
Combining live percussion, played by Alon Ilsar, acting and mime, the characters Frankie (Toby Levins), Charlie (Greg Hatton) and Macca (Marcel Bracks) retell the story of how they ended up in prison, enacting scenes from their past and explaining a chain of events that culminated in a sentence no-one wants to receive: execution.
Throughout the play, strong themes of homosexuality, suicide, guilt and the power of the mind are examined, as well as the strong male bonding of mate-ship, regardless of the circumstances.
Bondi Dreaming also attempts to examine the controversy that surrounds the death penalty and whether or not such an extreme punishment is justified in modern day society.
Despite consistent performances from the actors, Bondi Dreaming was sometimes difficult to follow, and the script, which constantly switched between the past and the present, was confusing and at times disjointed.
In addition, the characters, portrayed as your stereotypical Aussie blokes from the west seemed clichéd and the lame one-liners and repetitive themes were at times just as painful as being locked in solitary confinement.
Although the incorporation of percussion and mime was an interesting and original concept, Bondi Dreaming’s dialogue and storyline were not. As a result, when the expected knock on the cell door finally occurred, I couldn’t have been happier.
Fusebox Theatre @ The Factory, Enmore
Reviewed September 22, 2009
Set in a post-apocalyptic Australia in 2032, Petroleum is the new play written by Wayne Tunks, one of our leading lights in independent theatre. With Petroleum he doesn’t disappoint – the play ebbs and flows but never strays from being gut-wrenchingly raw.
In the play, petroleum has become the currency of the world – societies and governments have collapsed and a conglomerate called Central Corp rules the world.
The story centres on the underground resistance movement led by Eamon (Michael Elbridge) against a Central Corp militia squad fronted by Odele (Wayne Tunks). The exchanges between the two groups are constantly engaging and suspenseful as guns are thrust around, throats are slashed and personnel are ritualistically executed.
Meanwhile Skylar (Kellie Clarke), whose bar doubles as the resistance headquarters, duplicitously connects with one of the enemy squad members Tanner (Andrew Cutcliffe). A love tangle ensues which leads to a riveting climax, and an on-the-edge-of-your-seat resolution.
The cast enliven the words with a consistent sense of pathos, and drive the narrative forward with a real sense of urgency. The script is filled with social and political commentary but the action and suspense augment the philosophical inquiries at play.
Unfortunately, too many of the scenes were repetitively based around the same ideas. Also, near the end of the play many simple lines were muddled and seemed under-rehearsed.
With its engagement with current social, political and philosophical commentary, Petroleum constitutes an urgent and relevant warning to us all about the dangers of greed and the maliciousness of consumption. This is a must see play for anyone with half a political consciousness.