Review: Breathing Corpses (Eye Contact Theatre Company)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Apr 8 – 23, 2022
Playwright: Laura Wade
Director:
Jess Davis
Cast: Nisrine Amine, Xavier Coy, Zelman Cressey-Gladwin, Mark Langham, Monica Sayers, Joshua Shediak, Emma Wright
Images by Becky Matthews

Theatre review
A hotel maid discovers a dead body, when she opens the door, to one of the rooms that require her daily attention. Several people die in English writer Laura Wade’s Breathing Corpses, and it is the macabre quality of those lingering presences, that gives the play’s three disparate stories, a sense of danger and tension. Like in real life, there is a certain evasion in attitudes pertaining to the unassailable fact of death, and an inability to look death in its eye, to deal with it honestly, that underscore everything that we see unfold.

Directed by Jess Davis, the production bears an intensity that sustains our engagement, from start to end. Although some of the playwright’s humour seems lost in the staging’s focus on high-stakes drama, the 90-minute journey is nonetheless an enjoyable one. Sam Cheng’s sound design is a noteworthy element, that effectively, and elegantly, amplifies the gravity of situations being explored. Production design by Kate Beere, along with Sophie Parker’s lights, are accomplished with notable restraint, both contributing to a chilly atmosphere, that is characteristic of this staging.

A well-rehearsed cast of seven, deliver strong performances that ensure our investment in all of their narratives. Emma Wright plays hotel maid Amy, with great concentration and sensitivity; she sets the tone beautifully for a contemplative experience. Nisrine Amin and Zelman Cressey-Gladwin are excellent as the abusive couple Kate and Ben, both actors powerful in their convincing depiction of a terrifyingly destructive relationship.

People go about their lives, as though death will never come. So much of what we do, depends upon the certainty of a tomorrow. It is so easy then to devalue the time that we do have today, and leave what really matters for imaginary futures. Today then is only ever comprised perennially of inferior interludes, rarely allowing life to reach their fullest potential. Appreciating death, is to let every second count, which also means that one can finally learn, to live in the moment.

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Review: Hairworm (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: The Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Oct 1 – 5, 2019
Playwright: Emma Wright
Director: Jess Davis
Cast: Phoebe Atkinson, Bernadette Fam, Jennifer Hart, Alex King, Rebekah Parsons, Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame, Grace Stamnas, Sophie Strykowski, Laura Wilson
Images by Becky Matthews

Theatre review
Emma Wright’s first play Hairworm is about anorexia. It details the experience of an unnamed protagonist, as she suffers that very severe form of mental illness. We watch her go through tremendous anguish, in a writing style that is often clinical, able only to have us regard the condition from an intellectual distance, without having to invest heavily in emotional dimensions of the subject. As a theatrical work, Hairworm does not connect with immediacy, but is valuable in terms of the insight it no doubt provides, into something real and troubling.

Directed by Jess Davis, the production is dynamic and exacting, with Priyanka Martin’s lights and Cecelia Strachan’s sound, conspiring to carefully render a sense of texture for each of its scenes. A disciplined cast brings further polish to the staging, with Rebekah Parsons’ conviction as the afflicted lead character, giving urgency to the show’s pace and rhythm. Alex King plays the sister, memorable for introducing a moment of genuine sentimentality to proceedings.

Theatre does not always have to engage our emotions, but it should find ways to make us care. Conventional narrative structures can seem banal when we have them deciphered and deconstructed, but the way we choose to tell stories, are in direct relation with our very nature, and it seems humans are mostly predictable beings. We see the suffering in Hairworm, just as we see all the suffering in real life, and as is commonplace, our instinct is to respond with an insulating nonchalance that is perhaps inevitable. Art can pierce through that veil of apathy, to get to what one would hope is an essential compassion that unites us. Without art and compassion, hope becomes unimaginable.

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