Be Good Revolutionaries
Oval House Theatre
There are skeletal feet patterning the floor as you walk through to the theatre past a shrine piled with offerings. The central performance space is covered in what looks like earth, apples hang above the seats on one side, more shrines (created by Susan Sowerby) glimmer against the walls and from ropes crossing the space hang bundles of white cloth like suspended chrysalises.
Christopher Lawley has designed an intriguing environment, ready to reveal mysteries, that seems to reference the Latin-American Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, and when a woman appears out of the darkness she confirms that. But who are the dead that are being remembered? Are those chrysalises or shrouds?
Metamorphosed or resurrected the turn out to be the children of a revolutionary leader, someone like Ché Guevara. Their mother Anna (Juliet Prague) is bringing them up somewhere in the jungle, where they seem to live on apples and oranges. Anna is a strict disciplinarian. She has them doing tasks to a whistle and numbers, they pedal a generator to send radio messages off to their father and practice guerrilla warfare tactics. Emilia (Laura O'Toole) has her mouth taped up for some misdemeanour, romantically inclined Red (Francesca Dale) is warned against "dreaming of the man who will set you free—he doesn't exist." Little brother Curly (Alex Britto) is growing up rapidly, already he has the deepest voice in the family and wants to assert his masculinity. One daughter (Citialli Milian) has already fled the nest and gone off to join the revolution. She rises from the earth so perhaps she is dead and hovers like a ghost among the others.
When a stranger (Liam Clarke) turns up they treat him as the enemy but he claims to have fought alongside their father, his damaged leg the result of being tortured by the tyrants. His arrival changes the balance, awakens needs in the mother and unrest in the children and a new revolution develops.
This production, directed by Georgina Sowerby and Jon Lee, is part of Oval House Outlaws season of work that is still evolving. It does not offer an explicit story but raises a whole host of issues. On the one hand it is a memorial for those who sacrificed themselves for a cause, and for those whose needs are ignored to concentrate on the greater good. It is a questioning of whether we are worthy of those who led the fight for freedom or capable of taking on that struggle. It is a look at the rebellion of each new generation against the one that precedes it, a questioning of where loyalties lie. Or is it about deceit and abandoned responsibility?
What you take away will depend upon what you bring to it, but whatever you take as its meaning it has an irresistible theatricality and physical presence that hold the attention, not least in the singing and playing of Rebecca Thorn as the chorus like figure who introduces the scene and does much to sustain its atmosphere.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton