Review: Through A Beaded Lash (The Depot Theatre)

depotVenue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Nov 25 – Dec 12, 2015
Playwright: Robert Allan
Director: Julie Baz
Cast: Leo Domigan, Ryan Henry, Emily McGowan, Cherilyn Price, Oliver Rynn, Roger Smith

Theatre review
Robert Allan’s Through A Beaded Lash jumps between today and the early 80’s, to look at the AIDS epidemic and its effect on Sydney’s gay community over the last 30 years. Stories of this nature are in abundance, but published works seem to be predominantly American, and to have a new Australian voice for this issue is not only refreshing, it is deeply important. Our concerns and ideas may not be much different, but we must remember that that period of fear and devastation is a significant part of our local histories, and not just a chain of events that happened only at a distant time and space.

Allan’s script is deliberately light in tone, but its heavy heart is palpable and unambiguous. The play’s nostalgic quality will appeal to many, not only to those who experienced that era first-hand, but also to young ones who recognise their connection with that legacy of pride and pain. As a work of comedy, its wit is not razor sharp and several of its jokes require revision, but its genuine and powerful sentimentality is irresistible. That pathos is effectively orchestrated by Julie Baz, whose direction ensures that not a dry eye leaves the venue. There are issues with chemistry in the cast, and the production is, on the whole, lacking in elegance, but ultimately, Through A Beaded Lash is a remarkably moving play.

Performances are not particularly refined, but Leo Domigan and Roger Smith provide memorable moments that surprise with their extraordinary authenticity. Oliver Rynn creates the most believable character in the show, delighting us with a natural approach that outshines the oft too affected style of several cohorts.

When the worst is gone, we find ourselves grappling with the trauma it leaves behind. People become stronger after horrific events, and they can only do their best to move on, with scars that become invisible over time but the damage will not be eradicated. Dangers exist in our ability to pretend that every dark day is over, and it is on occasions like this, that a truthful story can provide remembrance that will expose the vulnerability that we live with, and we see that the healing process must continue.