Review: Rhymes With Silence (Improvising Change)

rhymeswithviolenceVenue: 107 Projects (Redfern NSW), May 16 – 24, 2015
Playwrights: Alex Broun, Jane Cafarella, Joy Roberts, Kate Rotherham, Loueen Winters, Natalie Banach, Pete Malicki, Suzy Wilds, Vee Malnar
Directors: Chrissy deSilva, Garreth Cruikshank, Glen Pead, Glenn Groves, Kaye Lopez, Lisa Eismen, Margaret Barnaby, Natasha McDonald, Uma Kali Shakti, Vee Malnar, Wayne Mitchell
Cast: Alex Gercsov, Ali Aitken, Angela Gibson, Bendeguz Daniel Devenyi-Botos, Debbie Tilley, Dede Attipoe, Elisa Cristallo, Eliza St John, Garreth Cruickshank, James Belfrage, Joanna Kedziora, Karina Bracken, Katherine Richardson, Katrina Papadopoulos, Kerrie Roberts, Lisa Hanssens, Liz Harper, Liz Hovey, Lynda Leavers, Matt Cowey, Melissa Day, Rebecca Van-Hek, Ros Richards, Sarah North, Tommy Deckard, Veena Sudarshan
Image by John Tsioulos

Theatre review
The programme comprises 13 short plays, unified by the theme of domestic violence against women and girls. The event aims to bring attention to a problem that struggles to find articulation, due to the unthinkable horror of being attacked within the most intimate of relationships. The perpetrators we hear about in Rhymes With Silence are husbands, lovers, fathers. Men who are meant to be our protectors have failed to provide the shield from harm, and their betrayal of trust is of the most severe and devastating kind. Without a doubt, the stories being shared here are dark and often harrowing. There is certainly no shortage of gravitas in spite of the casual presentation style, which simply moves from one basic staging to another with minimal fuss.

Some of the pieces can feel too obvious in their approach, and there is a repetitiveness to the proceedings that makes the two-and-a-half hours slightly challenging, but the earnest and direct way the artists deal with their difficult subject matter is a refreshing experience. The level of honesty we encounter is intimidating, but we are compelled to learn more. The scenarios are shocking but never unbelievable. Joy Roberts’ Regret is one of the few opportunities to hear from a male character, and the revelations of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is enlightening and exasperating. Also intriguing is Good Men Do Bad Things by Suzy Wilds, which features two mothers-in-law in dialogue after the son is sent to prison for killing the other’s daughter. The extraordinary context is fertile ground for explosive interchanges, and the script explores the possibilities beautifully. All the complex emotions are authentic and we relate effortlessly to every plea and confrontation. More than other stories in the collection, this work holds the greatest promise for a very interesting full length iteration.

The inordinately large number of cast members is evidence of the growing concern we have for the issue at hand. Some of the performances might be of an amateur level, but all are committed and serious in attitude. More polished actors include Karina Bracken, who shines in Whirlpools by Alex Broun. Bracken’s style is still but powerful, and her quiet confidence allows us to connect with the works she puts into her character’s thought processes. The fluidity in her interpretation provides a humanity that feels familiar and genuine. Also impressive is Melissa Day in Tara Weldon and Vee Malnar’s I Just Want My Little Family, whose energetic depiction of the single, low-income mother of an infant is as heartbreaking as it is threatening. The actor has a precision that is entertaining to watch, and a unique earthiness that gives her play a strong and individual flavour.

Theatre gives voice to the silent, and the formation of narratives allows us not only to share our experiences, but also works as a vehicle for individual catharsis. The healing process for the most gravely damaged is one that lasts a lifetime, and the artistic journey is also one with no end. The most enduring work comes from a place of truth, and unpacking emotional injuries requires an interrogation into the human condition that has no tolerance for pretence or triviality. There is nothing good that can come out of domestic violence, but many of the worst things that occur can be transposed into a new creativity, so that life can be be reconsolidated along with the art forms being built.