Shows staged in the Demonstration Room at Summerhall automatically gain a curious air as the audience shuffle into uncomfortable but expertly raked seating, no real choice but to look forward and pay attention.
It seems appropriate, therefore, that this piece opens almost like a lecture, the cast introducing their themes and taking the audience back to a time pre-web: Australia in the late 1970s.
It’s an unusual approach to distance yourself from the material you’re presenting and in this respect it’s a refreshing mechanism, the cast signposting that they can’t have lived the experiences of the characters as it was a different time and they weren’t even born. They aren’t judging, just making sure the story is told.
The main plot is one of resistance through music, four different people bonding over their hatred of the police: scared of their brutal methods but wanting to take a stand. They form a band and their music becomes integral to the show, a noisy way to vent frustration and demonstrate the lengths they have to go to to avoid being arrested.
It feels immediate, their performances truthful and the angst real. There are also subtler themes at play: racism, homophobia and sexism. The pressure of society to conform and not associate with ‘radicals’.
It’s a melting pot of issues of the day, and today. Prehistoric shines a light on a specific period of Australian history and one that most people have probably given little thought to. It feels odd to hear it being described as a police state, a fact acknowledged by the twee track that plays indistinctly as the audience sit down, all kangaroos and sunshine.
Cleverly balancing humour with rage, this is a witty and intelligent script performed with passion.