Review: Connect With Excellence (Ever After Theatre / Red Door Arts)

everaftertheatreVenue: Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre (Rozelle NSW), Mar 23 – 24, 2016
Playwrights: Emily Dash, Alyson Evans
Director: Alyson Evans
Cast: Rosie Amis, Kerrie Ann Bezzina, Christine Blanche, Jessie Chapman, Matthew Cutmore, Emily Dash, Teneile English, Patti Gilbert, Steve Konstantopoulos, Emma Plant, Roddy Salinas, Kate Walker, Lucy Watson

Theatre review
Lola is the passionate leader of “The Removal of Physical & Socio-cultural Barriers & Establishment of Equal Opportunities Committee” in Rozelle, one of Sydney’s more glamorous suburbs. We are taken on a tour of the neighbourhood, with headphones on, trailing behind Lola and her wheelchair, as she evaluates our suitability for joining the committee. Travelling through shops, streets and buildings, we hear stories from local residents and business operators, about people with disabilities, the challenges they face and the way they relate with community. We ponder on the differences and similarities of their experiences with able-bodied people, and spend a lot of the duration walking in their shoes.

Scripted by Emily Dash and Alyson Evans, Connect With Excellence is exuberant, humorous, and very touching. The impressive strength of ordinary people takes centre stage, while invisible privilege is exposed, making us confront our own positions in society, and the generosity we may or may not extend to others in everyday interactions. The work is delicately composed to take us through a visceral and emotional journey, going deeper and deeper as time passes, into our personal humanity. It is a meditative and profoundly reflective process that allows art to do its most sacred job, which is to make people better. The show brings to our attention, not only the challenges faced by people with disabilities, but also the unsung heroes who overcome barriers on a daily basis.

Dash’s performance as Lola is full of charm, wit and fortitude. The spirited and often bossy personality she creates makes for an effective and commanding tour leader, and her warm presence gives us a sense of security, as we step out of our comfort zones to look at Rozelle through her eyes. The show is amusing and entertaining, but also inherently political. It culminates in a pledge from each individual, with pen on paper, on how we wish to effect change. It is a decision and commitment that we make for the world that we share, to think about the needs of community, and to play a part in bringing about improvements, big and small.