Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 27 – Mar 3, 2018
Playwright: Jordan Shea
Director: Shae Riches
Cast: Josh Anderson, Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn, Patrick Diggins
Three young men from Australia are banged up abroad, imprisoned in Bangkok for a night of debauchery gone awry. In trouble because they had neglected to understand and respect local customs, Jordan Shea’s Cage takes these characters through the wringer, to depict the kind of obnoxious ignorance, contempt and imperialistic attitudes so prevalent in the way we conduct ourselves, in relation to our Asian neighbours.
Our colonial story is a persisting one. From the time of early European immigration, a wanton disregard of established cultures has operated as a pervasive force seeking to redefine and repurpose Australia and the region. In Cage, we see ourselves go to Thailand as tourists, thinking that the sole purpose of an entire country’s existence is to serve our need for mindless amusement. The punishment issued by Shea’s writing, for that continual and outrageous dereliction, is scathing and quite satisfying.
Directed by Shae Riches, the show is an effectively provocative one that brings illumination, to a problem that we already know to be true. Some scenes prove to be much more riveting than others, but as a whole, the production is unquestionably rewarding. Set design by Antoinette Barbouttis is cleverly conceived, restrained, and highly efficient in its ability to shape our imagination. Lights by Liam O’Keefe are dynamic and appropriately dramatic, while Alexander Lee-Rekers’ adventurous ideas with sound help extend the play’s dimensions beyond its prison walls.
Performances are strong, particularly impressive is Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn as Cuong, who creates astonishing authenticity for some very outlandish scenarios. The naive Ryan is played by Patrick Diggins, whose concentration translates into persuasiveness, and we almost begin to sympathise with his character’s predicament. Bryce the ghastly bogan, a hideous personality that is sadly all too familiar, is brought to life by Josh Anderson, especially affecting in the play’s more emotional sequences.
Parts of our national identity are incredibly generous, but there is no denying the reprehensible sides to our nature. The examination of ourselves in the context of a foreign prison, exposes some of our worst qualities, allowing us to see the devil inside. Whether abroad or at home, our capacity for damage is unrelenting. If power can only recognise power, it only follows that retribution is the only language that can hope to induce hindrance.