The reality of television: Griffin’s Beached

At eighteen years old, and weighing over 400 kilograms, Arthur (Arty) is the world’s heaviest teenager. With his gastric bypass surgery scheduled for 259 days’ time, he is assigned a Pathways to Work officer and put on a strict diet, while his every move is followed by a ravenous reality TV crew from a show called ‘Shocking Fat Stories.’ This is the world of Melissa Bubnic’s 2010 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award-winning play, Beached.
Directed by Shannon Murphy, Bubnic’s play is an unapologetically satiric and pointed look at the obesity epidemic, and tries to unpick “society’s insatiable appetite for human misery.” Murphy’s direction is bold and ambitious, her staging audacious and inventive, as she (ingeniously) shows us the artifice behind the ‘reality’ of reality television. In a set constructed like a television studio, two patterned walls create a corner in which Arty sits, while cameras, lights, backdrops and costumes hang from the rungs of a cage-like scaffold which moves around him, encasing and restricting his movement and freedom.


Nightmares in white: Belvoir's Persona

Belvoir’s presentation of Adena Jacobs’ theatrical reimaging of Persona is a hard pill to swallow. First performed by Fraught Outfit in Melbourne in 2012 to strong critical reviews, it takes Bergman’s 1966 film of the same name, and uses Bergman’s dialogue but reconceives it for the stage. Similar to Simon Stone’s staging of Bergman’s Face to Face for Sydney Theatre Company last year, Persona seems to be more distant and removed than it needs to be, and seems to occur in some kind of unengaging vacuum rather than the “consummate theatrical close-up ” Belvoir advertises in their season brochure.


Her-story: New Theatre's Top Girls

Written in 1982 when Margaret Thatcher was at the height of her game following the Falklands War, Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls was an incendiary and urgent play about women in power, women with power, and women and power. Now, thirty-one years later, with Thatcher’s passing and the end of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership closer to home, Churchill’s play – revived here by New Theatre – seems almost prescient.
While Top Girls can (naturally) be considered to be a ‘period piece’, borne of the social and economic transformations brought about by Thatcher’s election, it is more than a mere foretelling of the 1980s; it is an ashamedly revealing work which shows with alarming accuracy just how little we have come as a society since that time, as Lyn Gardner wrote in The Guardian in 2002.


Countdown to ignition: subtlenuance’s Rocket Man

Which child doesn’t, at some point or another, dream of reaching the stars? It’s an idea that’s been floating around the place lately, for perhaps a year or two, at least noticeably since ‘the man on the moon’ Neil Armstrong passed away in 2012. In Paul Gilchrist’s play Rocket Man playing at Darlinghurst’s TAP Gallery theatre, the idea of reaching for the stars is spun into another cosmos, a personal intimate universe of relationships, storytelling, the nature of playing and the theatre.