Review: Inner Voices (Don’t Look Away Theatre Company)

dontlookawayVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 15 – Jul 9, 2016
Playwright: Louis Nowra
Director: Phil Rouse
Cast: Annie Byron, Julian Garner, Emily Goddard, Nicholas Papademetriou, Anthony Gooley, Francesa Savige, and Damien Strouthos
Image by Ross Waldron

Theatre review
Ivan VI lived 23 short years in Russia, but in Louis Nowra’s Inner Voices, his destiny is transformed dramatically to tell a story about how kings are made, and how countries are ruled. Originally published in 1977, Nowra’s words in the play remain fresh and humorous, and although its political edge seems to have worn with time, Inner Voices‘ punk sensibility is still evident today in its iconoclastic characterisations and anti-authoritarian outlook.

It is a very exuberant production that Phil Rouse has directed. Notwithstanding our unfamiliarity with its context, the unrelenting and spirited acerbity of his style keeps us engrossed. The thoroughness at which the text’s comedy is explored, is not only endlessly amusing, it also helps provide depth of meaning to an outlandish narrative. Thoughtfully designed, the production’s aesthetic values are textured and powerful. Anna Gardiner’s set and Katelyn Shaw’s sound design are especially remarkable in the degree to which they are able to consistently add surprising dimension to the play.

Inner Voices‘ cast of seven is an exceptionally dynamic bunch. Ivan is played by Damien Strouthos, whose uncanny ability to portray eccentricity is a perfect fit for the quirky role. The actor takes the opportunity to showcase excellent range in a part that goes through several significant transformations, and we see various facets to Strouthos’ talents, all equally accomplished. Anthony Gooley is absolutely memorable as Mirovich, with razor sharp wit and a flamboyant theatricality that knows no bounds. Enthralling and hilarious, Gooley is outstanding on this stage and we are kept amazed by the genius inventiveness he injects into every line of dialogue.

It is the eve of another federal election in Australia, and we think about the likely candidates who will rule us for another three years. Inner Voices reflects our prevailing cynicism, and exposes the falsities associated with the state of our politics and governments. We want truth and honesty from those who represent us, but we have become all too aware of the hypocrisies and cunning that are required for people to attain positions of power. If good people cannot win in a broken system, all we have are at best, compromised and substandard. Nowra’s play does not offer us any solutions, but it certainly is a reminder that we should want to do better.