Review: The Great Australian Play (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Sep 15 – Oct 8, 2022
Writer: Kim Ho
Director: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Cast: Lucinda Howes, Kurt Pimblett, Rachel Seeto, Idam Sondhi, Mây Trần
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

A group of young Australians are in a room, trying to write a television series, but obstacles abound preventing them from getting anywhere meaningful with their project. Kim Ho’s The Great Australian Play is a very contemporary look, at our culture and zeitgeist, a work that serves perhaps as documentation of how we are changing as a nation. The bad news, is that we consistently fail to find consensus, in so much of what we do; good news however, is that the weakening of a previous hegemony, means that authority is being disseminated.

Unable to agree on anything, the writers struggle to meet their deadline. The Great Australian Play is not a case of writer’s block, but a rendering of the commercial, social and artistic factors, that many of today’s creatives feel they are beholden to. Director Saro Lusty-Cavallari uses this conceit, to create a show about conflict and the elusiveness of resolution. It is a satire about the creative process, as it stands this point in time, as we try to make sense of the mechanics of power on this colonised land, and try to effect benevolent changes to it.

The Great Australian Play has a tendency to feel overly complicated, especially when it ventures into surreal and symbolic territory. Its concepts are strong, but execution never quite reaches its aesthetic ideals. Set and costumes by Kate Beere, are able to convey the mundanity of the writers’ room experience, but lacks the versatility and idiosyncrasy required, to aid in the play’s many amorphous and quirky tendencies. Kate Baldwin’s lights respond better to that need for a more theatrical approach, although they can feel at times to be abruptly calibrated. More successful is Lusty-Cavallari’s own sound design, that proves adept at helping the audience navigate between complex spatial configurations, physical and otherwise.

Demonstrating great commitment to the cause, is a cast of six compelling actors. Lucinda Howes, Kurt Pimblett, Rachel Seeto, Idam Sondhi and Mây Trần, form a well-rehearsed group, persuasive with all they intend to say.

What we can learn from the old guard, is not only that it is time for them to relinquish power to more appropriate people, but also that the way in which their systems have been organised, is in desperate need of transformation. There is not much point, in replacing one head with another, if the entire apparatus refuses to budge. Characters in The Great Australian Play are seen to be falling apart, because they are still operating under old structures. It is accurate to portray them as failures, for none of us is quite sure, as to where our destination should be, if indeed, one could exist.

www.redlineproductions.com.au | www.montaguebasement.com

Review: They Took Me To A Queer Bar (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Sep 6 – 10, 2022
Writer/Performer: Tommy Misa
Performance Guide: Emma Maye Gibson
Images by Joseph Mayers

Theatre review

Like many queer people, Tommy Misa comes from a history of ostracism. That common experience of marginalisation however, leads us to forming communities, some of which manifest in bonds stronger than those found in biological families. Misa’s one-person show is about that human need to belong, and that search for a sanctuary, in order that one may feel a sense of validation and acceptance.

They Took Me to a Queer Bar is a partially autobiographical work, involving a nightclub named Auntie Lavender’s and a drag queen elder Caramello Koala. Misa demonstrates great reverence for both, whilst trying to grapple with the realities of being a queer person-of-colour, connected to Samoa and to Gadigal. Existing in and between both places, yet experiencing a lifetime of rejection, Misa seems only to be able to locate a wholeness and perhaps become self-actualised, after discovering the people of Auntie Lavender’s.

It is a soulful work, with authenticity emerging from the simplicity with which Misa tells their story. There is wonderful humour informed by the irony, that figures centrally in Misa’s attitudes about life in general, the kind that queer and other marginalised people will surely recognise and identify with. Their expressions can be poetic, but are also mundane, and at times vulgar. At just an hour, Misa’s presentation is a sampler of who they are, and an offering of what our values might be, as queer people who have to rely on each other.

Misa’s performance of the work, is heavily dependent on their charisma, which proves limitless. Their captivating presence, is given excellent shape and nuance, by performance guide Emma Maye Gibson, who ensures that every subtle resonance is unmissed. Much is conveyed between the lines, in a work that exemplifies the power of intimate live theatre.

Set design by Misa and Lyndsay Noyes is effective in helping our attention concentrate on the only physicality that matters in this show, which is the performer’s body. Also meaningful, is a garment that appears late in the piece, created by Nicol & Ford, exuding decadence and making a statement about our history as outsiders. Exquisite lights by Frankie Clarke are almost psychedelic in style, tuning the viewers’ mind to a dreamlike frequency, whilst using colour and movement to suggest the characteristic flamboyance of those incapable of being straight. Sound and music by Jonny Seymour glistens, moves and unifies, adding a dimension of sumptuous transcendence to the communal event.

People who have been excluded and made to feel unworthy, will either regurgitate that same venom (onto others and themselves), or they will become capable of being the most loving of all. It is perhaps miraculous, that those who have been so thoroughly broken, can be the ones who do the most for the world. Similarly, it is astonishing to realise that the greatest pride, resides where the most abominable shame used to be. They Took Me to a Queer Bar shows just how unfair things are, but for those who have come out the other end triumphant, there is no better place to be.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: How To Defend Yourself (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Aug 11 – Sep 3, 2022
Playwright: Liliana Padilla
Director: Claudia Barrie
Cast: Georgia Anderson, Madeline Marie Dona, Brittany Santariga, Jessica Spies, Jessica Paterson, Michael Cameron, Saro Lepejian
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

Two men raped a woman, at an American university campus one night. The student body convulses in response, trying to do its best to make sense of the violence, but finds itself unable to come to terms, with life after the abhorrent episode. In Liliana Padilla’s How to Defend Yourself, we see a group of young people congregating at a dojo, ostensibly taking classes for self-defence, but is in fact finding solace in one another, and hoping for emotional emancipation, following the devastating attack on an institution that had hitherto felt safe and secure.

Padilla’s 2019 play is appropriately cynical and pessimistic, written at a time when the meanings of gender (and its injustices) are rapidly collapsing. We watch characters in the show desperately finding ways to mend their individual lives, within a system that clearly needs an overhaul. Thankfully there is surprising humour to be found throughout the piece, although the production seems hesitant about its implementation. Directed by Claudia Barrie, How to Defend Yourself is certainly well-intentioned, but the way in which its discussions are conducted, often feels surface and perfunctory. A lack of vulnerability, prevents us from reaching deeper into the issues at hand.

Chemistry between cast members too, are insufficiently vigorous, for a story that relies on explosive revelations and overwhelming poignancy. There are strong performances to be found, from the likes of Brittany Santariga and Jessica Spies, who bring emotional intensity, and from Georgia Anderson and Saro Lepejian, with their captivating idiosyncrasies, but not all are able to connect meaningfully with one another. Perhaps it is that disjointed communication, that is at the core of our social problems. No matter how fervent we are, it is an inability to find consensus that hinders progress.

Set design by Soham Apte, along with Emily Brayshaw’s costumes, transport us to the world of American colleges, with accuracy and concision. Lights by Saint Clair have a tendency to be overly enthusiastic, but are effective in bringing visual variety to the imagery that we encounter. Sound design by Samantha Cheng on the other hand, is conservatively rendered but able to manufacture surges of energy when required.

Much of sexual violence springs from our conceptions of gender; what it means to be a man, a woman, and how the two are supposed to converge. We teach our young to take these notions as gospel, and then watch as they relate to everything from their assigned vantage points, as they place themselves in positions of power and subjugation accordingly. We expound to women that the world is kind, and that people nurture one another, while we drill into men that the world is for their taking, and that fortune favours the brave.

To undo that indoctrination, not just for individuals, but for entire societies, has proven a long and arduous road. We are however, in a moment of acceleration, as we awaken from false binaries, and begin to reshape our understanding of being, and of communities. As gender begins to disintegrate, we are forced to reckon with all that it touches, which in essence, is all and everything. We can no longer tolerate prejudice of any kind, which means that we must no longer allow barriers and disadvantage of any description to remain. How we accomplish this pipe dream however is, as Padilla indicates in How to Defend Yourself, quite the mystery.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Burn Witch Burn (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jul 7 – 30, 2022
Playwrights: Tasnim Hossain, Claudia Osborne (based on a story by Fritz Leiber)
Director: Claudia Osborne
Cast: Sheree da Costa, Daniel Gabriel, Alex Packard, Tivy Siripanich and Alex Stamell
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

When Norman discovers that his successes as a lecturer, are due to the witchcraft that his wife practises, things begin to unravel. Forces light and dark are unleashed, as a chain of secrets get revealed, in Burn Witch Burn by Tasnim Hossain and Claudia Osborne, a work of experimental physical theatre, based on a 1943 story (and 1962 film) by Fritz Leiber.

With an emphasis on atmosphere over narrative, the storytelling becomes nebulous. There may not be much certainty as to what exactly is being said, but the production is often unpredictable and intriguing, able to entertain for most of its duration. Emma White’s set design and Veronique Bennett’s lights offer visual brilliance, inviting our eyes to explore every furtive corner of the space. Chrysoulla Markouli’s exhaustive sound design lures us into the ethereal, where we attempt to connect on a plane that is decidedly esoteric and ephemeral.

Directed by Osborne, Burn Witch Burn is a quirky and charming presentation, although the macabre qualities that it tries to render, prove to be less than affecting. Where it intends to portray horror, the show can feel somewhat hollow. There is meaning to be found in this tale of secret women’s business, but Burn Witch Burn is hesitant to make anything obvious, choosing to keep many of its concerns under wraps. The cast of five embodies that mystery well, willing to be looked at but not really seen, with performer Sheree da Costa leaving a particularly strong impression, full of mesmerising intensity and admirable physical discipline.

In some ways, the witches in the show are an allegory for the ways in which power is distributed and  enforced. Feminists want everyone to embrace their ideals of equality. We believe that a fair world is the best way forward, but there are many in positions of privilege who will not acquiesce to the idea, that the relinquishment of power is often a good thing. It seems that we are a species seduced by injustice, and a destination of peace is therefore impossible. Activism work can never be complete, it has to be in perpetual motion, whether in the confrontation of others, or of the self.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Cleansed (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 9 – 25, 2022
Playwright: Sarah Kane
Director: Dino Dimitriades
Cast: Danny Ball, Stephen Madsen, Tommy Misa, Jack Richardson, Charles Purcell, Fetu Taku, Mây Trần
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review

It is uncertain where the action takes place, but in Sarah Kane’s Cleansed, we see a man named Tinker torturing several individuals, in a manner that implies somewhere utterly and devastatingly fascistic. Tinker is presented as all powerful, able to commit the most heinous of acts without being reprehended, or perhaps his horrific atrocities are indeed sanctioned, by an authority that remains unidentified. Tinker’s victims display no violent and criminal tendencies, only forms of sexual and gender expression that deviate from what some of us might call, the heteronormative.

It is a ghastly thing to witness, this incessant agony being inflicted on characters, in a theatrical presentation obsessed with pain. In truth, moments between the brutality, are filled with depictions of a loving nature, but the suffering is never distant enough, for anything sweet or nice, to sufficiently emerge. We know with hindsight, that Cleansed offers a window into the psyche of a tormented soul. Originally created less than a year before playwright Kane’s suicide, it gives us access to a darkness rarely seen, in any of our communal settings.

Direction by Dino Dimitriadis explores that space of terror, without mitigation. The intensity with which Kane’s writing is transposed on this occasion, is uncompromising, and quite shocking in its effect. The concept of body horror, figures prominently in the staging, to communicate with veracity, not only the level of anguish experienced by those devoid of hope, but also to depict the psychological consequences of homophobia and transphobia, in some of our everyday existences.

Dimitriadis appropriately manufactures for us, a sense of escalating dread and revulsion, refusing to give in to any need for reprieve. There is no room for politeness, when matters are truly urgent. The audience is left to its own devices, to access mental fortitude wherever it can, in order to get to the end of Cleansed, should they choose to stay. Exiting prematurely, in this case, is also an understandable and valid cause of action.

Sound design by Benjamin Pierpoint is relied upon to strike fear into our hearts, and its efficacy cannot be understated. If your worst nightmare can be represented in an audio recording, Pierpoint has accomplished it here. Jeremy Allen’s set design is black, hard and stony, to convey the cruelty that our species is capable of inflicting on one another. Lights by Benjamin Brockman and Morgan Moroney are similarly icy, offering only the most explicit perspective of the inhumanity being exposed. Costumes by Connor Milton are aesthetically understated, but the way injury and decapitation is represented, is cleverly achieved, and suitably gruesome.

Actor Danny Ball is marvellous as Tinker, deadpan but terrifying, full of ambiguity in his portrayal of pure evil. The quietness of Ball’s performance disallows us to undermine the severity of his character’s barbaric deeds; it is the absence of dramatics in Tinker’s cruelty that makes us see it exactly for what it is. Mây Trần as Grace, delivers some of the most affecting emotional authenticity one could hope to see in the flesh. To be able to muster such a visceral and accurate presence for a character at the very depths of despair, is evidence of an artist of the highest calibre at work. The unforgettable Stephen Madsen shakes us to the core, with spine-chilling screams and a ravaged physicality that tragically deteriorates over time. It is a splendid cast of seven incendiary types, determined to say something devastating, in an extremely powerful way.

Cleansed may not be about a universal experience, but the harrowing nature of its story is contingent on our ability to all feel the same pain. Tinker knows how to inflict pain, because he too knows what it is to suffer. There is a dissonance that always exist perhaps, in our ability to do unto others what we wish not to have done to ourselves. It may seem that a constant in being human, involves a need to perceive difference. To be able to think of some as more deserving than others, allows for power to manifest. To be able to think of some as inferior, allows for abuse to take place. Tinker is no different from the rest; understanding how he gets to exercise such power, is the key to dismantling so many of our ills.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Ate Lovia (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), May 12 – Jun 4, 2022
Playwright: Jordan Shea
Director: Kenneth Moraleda
Cast: Dindi Huckle-Moran, Anna Lee, Chaya Ocampo, Joseph Raboy, Marcus Rivera
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It was 1996, and Australia could no longer deny that a tide was turning, when a newly-elected Senator proclaimed that we were “in danger of being swamped with Asians”. The long held national pride around notions of mateship and the fair-go, was obliterated overnight. Division and prejudice had suddenly become sanctioned, marking a significant occasion of innocence lost, in our collective history. Jordan Shea’s Ate Lovia is a story about a Filipino-Australian family, set during that watershed moment, when Asians on this land were singularly vilified. In the ensuing social disunity, we observe the fractures that had extended from the top levels of government, into the homes of individuals.

Lovia and Vergel are siblings, who live with their alcoholic father Jovy. There is no shortage of love in the household, but the trauma that Jovy had suffered before and after coming to Australia, means that peace is elusive. Fleeing persecution, only to find himself becoming a second-class citizen in a white colony, Jovy does his best to raise his Australian children, but the hardship he faces daily, proves too hard to bear. In Jordan Shea’s Ate Lovia, we see two teenagers left to their own devices, trying to find their feet in sink or swim circumstances.

Shea’s writing is astute and passionate, almost rhapsodic with the emotions that it captures. Its narrative may not feel original, but there is a level of detail in its observations, that makes for delicious theatre, fascinating and amusing to a great degree, whilst making statements that are important for a nuanced understanding of life on this land. Under the directorship of Kenneth Moraleda, Ate Lovia is strikingly authentic with the people it seeks to represent, and even though his approach is not quite as fastidious as the material requires, what the show is able to articulate, is resonant and undoubtedly truthful.

Production design by Ruru Zhu is simple, but powerfully evocative. Martin Kinnane’s lights help to tell the story in a succinct and direct way. Music and sound by Michael Toisuta are adventurous augmentations, sometimes humorous, and sometimes bold.

Actor Chaya Ocampo is an earnest Lovia, slightly limited with the sentiments she is able to convey for the titular role, but nonetheless a dedicated and resolute presence. Joseph Raboy plays Vergel with similar enthusiasm, and commendable with the introspective qualities he introduces, but certainly falls short in terms of physical discipline, in a role that requires exceptional dance ability. Jovy is given extraordinary energy by an intense Marcus Rivera, whose unabashed depiction of a melodramatic personality, offers a disarming style of performance rarely seen in colonised art spaces. Dindi Huckle-Moran as Lou, and Anna Lee as Wendy, are integral to the action, both performers bringing valuable buoyancy to the show.

Unable to find a sense of belonging in his adopted home of Australia, Jovy is in turn incapable of providing for his children, the security that they need to flourish. Lovia and Vergel soon discover the limitations of what their family can provide, and begin searching outside, but the rejections faced by their father, are likely to befall every subsequent generation in not dissimilar ways. That is, unless things improve. Comparing Asian-Australian lives today with 1996, we are unlikely to come to any firm conclusion, about the extent to which conditions have changed. The only certainty is that there is still a lot of work to be done, before the matter of race can be put to rest.

www.redlineproductions.com.au | www.kwento.com.au

Review: Volcanoes And Vulvas (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), May 3 – 7, 2022
Director and Performer: Cheryn Frost
Co-Writers: Brylie Frost, Cheryn Frost

Theatre review
It is the artist’s passion that takes centre stage in Volcanoes and Vulvas, a one-woman show that excavates at the deepest recesses of Cheryn Frost’s psyche, for a theatrical portrait of feminine desire and queer love. The natural phenomenon of volcanoes, with all their eruptive force, is introduced into these discussions about the libido, as well as drawing humorous parallels between geological dikes and Frost’s sexual identity as a proud lesbian. A reminder perhaps, that the social and the natural, are to be regarded as one and the same.

The work resides in a place of impulse and emotion, which means its intellectual dimensions can feel somewhat under-explored, but its powerful aesthetics draw us in convincingly, and convey with exactitude, the internal realities of what it must be like to be Frost. An exquisite set design by Jessie Spencer, along with hypnotic lights by Frankie Clarke, seduce us into a state that is both rapturous and viscerally erotic, helping us connect the libido of humanity with the palpable drives of the rest of nature. Angus Mills creates a soundtrack that surreptitiously disarms, operating like sonic lubrication, in order that we may welcome the artist’s earnest expressions with commensurate openness.

As performer, Frost is charming, with a distinct vulnerability that keeps us firmly on side. It is admirable that she pushes herself to points of discomfort, so that a more dramatic experience could be manufactured, but it is in more introspective moments where Frost feels most authentic and inviting. At approximately 40 minutes, Volcanoes and Vulvas is unapologetically succinct. There is an insistence on honesty, of only saying what the artist wants to say, even if it is ultimately a simple and small statement.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: The Seven Deadly Sins & Mahagonny Songspiel (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 31 – Apr 23, 2022
Music: Kurt Weill
Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht
Director: Constantine Costi
Cast: Roberta Diamond, Allie Graham, Nicholas Jones, Anthony Mackey, Andy Moran, Benjamin Rasheed, Margaret Trubiano 
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
This double-bill comprises century-old short operas, The Seven Deadly Sins and Mahagonny Songspiel by German exiles, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Both are stories concerned with decay and decadence, from artists known for their interest in social justice; the former explores the loss of innocence, while the latter has us enter a space that is already debauched. The passage of time seems to have done little to diminish the resonance of these themes. In fact, it is the awareness of capitalism being more pervasive and permanent than ever before, that influences our appreciation of these works. What were once cautionary tales, are now simply statements of fact.

It is a marvellous accomplishment, spearheaded by director Constantine Costi, to have opera playing in the basement of a pub in one of the world’s most monetised cities, complete with professional performers and a finely tuned orchestra.

Charles Davis’ set design miraculously transforms one of our smallest theatre spaces, in order that upwards of 20 people can be accommodated on stage at any one time. The pure luxury of being in complete sonic immersion, is an indulgence that is certainly unparalleled, at least in these parts of the world. Music delivered by Ensemble Apex and their répétiteur Antonio Fernandez, is an incredible pleasure, in the middle of one of the least likely places and times. It is an historic occasion, for Kings Cross at the height of the Covid era.

Costume design by Emma White is campy and humorous, but always elegantly rendered. Trent Suidgeest’s boldly coloured lights deliver for us a visual sumptuousness, even as we negotiate the seedy underbellies of Brecht and Weill’s collaborative imagination.

The stunning voice of Margaret Trubiano commences proceedings, as Anna I in The Seven Deadly Sins , accompanied by the heavenly nimbleness of dancer Allie Graham as Anna II, both women captivating in their respective areas of expertise. Other singers follow, namely Roberta Diamond, Nicholas Jones, Anthony Mackey, Andy Moran and Benjamin Rasheed, to keep us spellbound for the hour-long duration.

There is no doubt that bringing world class opera to an unexpected place, with unsuspecting audiences, is a mammoth undertaking. One sits in the middle of the ambition and tenacity of these remarkable artists, and wonders if the sad state of our economic lives, is indeed a foregone conclusion. Capitalism has advanced so far, and has infiltrated so much into our existence and consciousness, that we no longer dare hope for its abatement. Seeing opera at the Cross however, reminds us that the human spirit is boundless, until we decide that it is time to surrender.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Hand To God (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Feb 24 – Mar 26, 2022
Playwright: Robert Askins
Director: Alexander Berlage
Cast: Gerard Carroll, Merridy Eastman, Philip Lynch, Ryan Morgan, Michelle Ny
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Recently widowed Margery is trying to get her life back together, but it seems her new responsibilities at church, of trying to teach puppetry to young teens, are working out very poorly. Her son Jason especially, is reacting in unimaginably terrifying ways, with his malicious puppet Tyrone seeming to take on a life of its own, to terrorise all and sundry. Robert Askins’ Hand to God toys with ideas around supernatural possession and dissociative disorders, but its greatest concern is trauma, a subject matter that the theatrical arts seem particularly adept at tackling.

Both Margery and Jason act out in highly unedifying ways. In Hand to God, the profane is conveyed through outrageous absurdist comedy. The entertainment that all the jubilant laughter provides, is a guise for valuable observations pertaining to loss, and the destructive behaviour that often ensues in its aftermath.

Director Alexander Berlage uses Askins’ extravagant material to create a work of immense vivacity. It is a very heightened type of theatre, that allows for the most flamboyant flourishes, but Berlage’s insistence on nuance and authenticity, ensures that the wild humour is always partnered with meaningful insight.

Set design by Jeremy Allen and Emma White is replete with sarcasm, in its depictions of religion and superstition, and also remarkable for its transformation of space, effective in providing the sensation of being immersed in parochial Americanness. Lights by Phoebe Pilcher, along with Daniel Herten’s sound design, are relied upon for sensory magnifications for the jokey paranormality, that forms the basis of the play’s pleasures.

Merridy Eastman brings great compassion to the part of Margery, thereby encouraging us to respond similarly. Eastman, like all of the cast, delivers a very funny performance, but it is her subtle renderings in between the comedy, that reveal the beautiful emotional truths behind all the manic manifestations. As the disturbed Jason, Philip Lynch demonstrates incredible skill in splitting mind and body between two vastly different personalities; his work is a fascinating and impressive thing to behold.

The enchanting Michelle Ny offers a critical dimension of purity to the story, even though her most memorable scene as Jessica, is anything but innocent. Ryan Morgan has the happy task of playing the entirely comedic part of Timothy, and is flawless with his bold choices, responsible for creating some of the show’s biggest laughs. Gerard Carroll’s wonderfully satirical take on Pastor Greg too, is hilarious, as he mocks the heart-breaking incapacity and voidness of religion.

So much happens during one’s formative years, but nothing can ever be done, to completely shield a young person from the ravages of life. There are however ways to steer for better outcomes when damage occurs; not everything can be resolved, but processes are always available, to try for improvements. The postscript of Hand to God is surely about healing, or a lifetime of navigating the inevitable hazards of existence. No matter how late one comes to acknowledging these scars, it must be in the essence of our humanity, to want to work towards something better, whether or not there is the possibility of comprehensive rehabilitation. Change is hard, but stagnation may as well be death. 

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Chewing Gum Dreams (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 13 – Feb 19, 2022
Playwright: Michaela Coel
Director: Bernadette Fam
Cast: Masego Pitso
Images by Teniola Komolafe

Theatre review
Fourteen-year-old Tracey Gordon talks a big game around the school yard, but really she is no different from any kid next door. English playwright Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum Dreams is a hilarious look at early adolescence, a stage of life where there is often, too much of a hurry to grow up.

Coel’s refusal of condescension in her comical depictions, makes us regard young Black girls with only respectful humanity. Probably the most underestimated group in many of our societies, this realistic and thoroughly natural portrayal of a person like Tracey, is an effective attempt at changing the narrative in the West, about Blackness, and about girlhood, at their point of intersection.

Imbuing the story with admirable profundity is director Bernadette Fam, whose adoration for Tracey is plain to see. An air of reverence for the character, and for Coel’s text, puts strongly in focus, all that is important about Chewing Gum Dreams, demanding of us a corresponding gravity with which to consider the themes at play.

Set design by Keerthi Subramanyam offers simple solutions to assist our imagining of Tracey’s places. whilst Kate Baldwin’s lights bring unexpected variation and dynamism to the visuals presented, on what initially looks to be a minimal stage. Liliana Occhiuto’s sound design is memorable for the melancholy that takes over our senses at certain crucial points, but a sparseness in her approach contributes to a slight deficiency in energy for the overall experience.

Playing Tracey is Masego Pitso, a captivating performer whose mischievous glint in the eye sets the tone for the production. Effortlessly endearing, Pitso occupies our attention for the entire duration, able to make us hang on to her every word and gesture. Her confidence makes us feel at ease, and the exuberance she puts into the creation of Tracey, ensures that we fall in love with the character even before she utters her first words.

A sombre moment in Chewing Gum Dreams, sees young Tracey talking about cracks in the floor, designed for people like her, and her mother, to fall through. It is a reminder that for many of us, so much of our destinies, in these colonised spaces, are determined by external forces that never allow our well-being, and our ambitions, to be a priority. We exist mainly as instruments for the advancement of their agenda. We are at best, stepping stones that allow them to further perpetuate their project of inequity, always merely dispensable objects in their estimation. Chewing Gum Dreams shows us quite matter-of-factly, the ordinariness of Tracey. Yet, what we wish for her future, is something that in most of our realities, would look nothing less than a rare exception.

www.redlineproductions.com.au / www.greendoortheatrecompany.com