Review: Home Invasion (The Old 505 Theatre / An Assorted Few)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Mar 21 – Apr 7, 2018
Writer: Christopher Bryant
Director: Alexander Berlage
Cast: Chloe Bayliss, Kate Cheel, Yure Covich, Morgan Maguire, Wendy Mocke, Cecilia Morrow
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
In Christopher Bryant’s Home Invasion, two modern American tragedies are memorialised, and analysed through the lens of pop culture. The murder of child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, and the suicide of an American Idol contestant, outside of pop star Paula Abdul’s home. Through these stories of unfulfilled lives, the play presents a cynical view of the woman’s world, in which her desires are shaped intractably, by portrayals in the media, of the feminine as being essentially inadequate and a scourge.

We meet the aforementioned singing aspirant June (who changes her name to Paula), along with a housewife Carol and a 15 year-old Lolita type, Sam. All three individuals are disturbed, but we have to join the dots to figure out their dysfunctions. Director Alexander Berlage places these characters within the glossy setting of our consumerist lives, drawing attention to the unrelenting superficiality that seems determined to prevent us from attaining healthy existences.

Set design by Jeremy Allen and Berlage’s lights, together with Ellen Stanistreet’s costumes, forge a powerful collaboration offering a series of striking imagery, often more impressive with the aesthetic statements being made, than the actual stories they help to tell.

Adventurous interpretations by a strong cast, keep us intrigued and intellectually stimulated. Kate Cheel is thoroughly captivating as the wannabe Paula, simultaneously critical and empathetic towards the narrative she inhabits. She turns an outrageously bizarre personality into someone we recognise, and although we may never understand the extreme measures she undertakes, the actor is more than able to convince us of Paula’s truths, impenetrable as they might be. Also wonderful, are Chloe Bayliss and Morgan Maguire, both marvellously animated, delightful with their comedy, whether frothy and madcap, or darkly unsettling.

The play seems to say that we are powerless against tragic narratives that are continually thrust open us by commercial media outlets, the same ones that are then consecrated and fetishised by society. Home Invasion depicts female subjugation in contemporary terms, as an operation inherent in processes of commodification and of the media. It is true that we are in danger of having our minds clouded and capitalised by institutions that will benefit from our delusions, but we must believe that resistance is possible, and necessary. Where the show ends, is where we begin deducing alternatives for our aftermath.

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