Over the last three years, Pepperdine University has proven itself a more than capable theatre company which can utilise a large ensemble cast in provocative and creative ways. This year sees its most ambitious project to date, which is matched in scope only by the delicacy and seriousness with which it is approached.
Drawing source concepts from the currently topical media circuses that had surrounded the spate of highly reported US college campus rapes, Lynda Radley's script manages to distill a tragically familiar yet original story of a fictional student, sexually assaulted while unconscious at a college party. Her attacker being the star quarterback of the football team, leads to various pressures against her story arising from surprising places, as well as the usual skepticism and victim-blaming inherent to rape cases.
The Interference uses the company's signature mixture of overlapping voices and dischordant dialogue, used to great effect in 2014's Forget Fire, to create a compelling narrative of broken snippets of conversation, fragmentary news reports and Internet comments and tweets, thereby creating an easily digestible sense of a sensory bombardment upon the audience, to parallel that of the pressures put upon the student, Karen.
The company creates a series of narratives with cast members changing roles from reporters, to police, to bloggers, to football players while never descending too far down one angle as to get stuck.
The few slower moments of the piece revolve around Karen herself, played with an astonishing and heartbreaking controlled fragility by Alexandria Garrett, as she is run through the gauntlet of the media circus, college committee boards and a touching but awkward double conversation with both boyfriend and father.
Most tellingly, the one persona in the story never touched upon directly is that of the rapist quarterback. The wise decision not to have an actor ever portray him ensures he remains an ever-pervasive presence looming over the story like a brewing storm, but this is not his story, and by removing him from it physically, it allows for the focus to never leave Karen, making the play all the more powerful for it.
Pepperdine has captured the essence of the moment in all its rage, its despair and hope. It's a story that needs to be told.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan