Sunny Drake’s X


Sunny Drake, Contact Inc & The Independents

Metro Arts’ Sue Benner Theatre

Featuring Sunny Drake

Reviewed by Michelle Bull


Sunny Drake. Image by Leesa Connelly.


I perched alone on a stool in the foyer of Metro Arts, I busied myself looking over emails (I’d already read), texting and checking my facebook messages (again) while I waited for the doors of the theatre to open.  I was here for the premiere of ‘X’ by Sunny Drake, directed by Therese Collie, a show exploring the idea of addiction (hmm…), and part of the 2012 The Independents series at Metro Arts.

Upon collecting my ticket I was immediately given a slip of paper that asked me to write down a judgment I held or had heard about someone with an alcohol addiction. This was a thought-provoking introduction to the show that left me thinking perhaps there might be a message here that would send me pondering and questioning into the wee hours, and possibly updating my Facebook status accordingly in the morning.

‘X’ explores the idea of addiction, through the journey of best friends ‘Jamie’ and ‘Caitlin’, alongside puppets ‘Naked’ and ‘Fancy’. Encompassing varied theatrical elements including animation, puppetry and live performance, Sunny Drake delivers a captivating look inside the struggles and obsessions of the four characters in a transparent and effectively abstract fashion. The work is centered specifically on alcohol addiction and is told from a lesbian/ gay/ bisexual/ transgendered/ intersex/ queer perspective, fundamental to the experiential nature of the works formation. The collaborative nature of the work is acknowledged as Drake gives a personal welcome and introduction to the show, suggesting that addiction is a ‘human condition’ and one that affects us all in one-way or another, whatever the catalyst may be.

The set, designed by Georgina Greenhill is cleverly constructed both for theatrical impact and functionality, allowing Drake to blur the lines of puppetry and animation seamlessly. Animator Ingrid K Brooker is to be applauded for creating a surrealist world that exists alongside that of the set giving it a magical quality and multiple dimensions for the characters to play in.

I felt the strongest aspects of the show included this integration of stop animation, multimedia and puppetry as a means of communicating difficult emotions and symbolism of the internal state of the characters. The design and execution of these elements gave a real sense of humanity to puppets ‘Naked’ and ‘Fancy’ as under Drake’s hand they seamlessly merged with the other characters and battled their addictions in heartbreakingly real and identifiable fashion.

Although each of the characters portrayed by Drake were likeable and seamlessly introduced, I did feel they could each be further developed to give a clearer distinction between each archetype. I was at times left behind as Drake flipped from one to the next, which, while not distracting from the quality of the performance, did disconnect me from its sincerity. That being said, some characters were more refined than others, which made more obvious those that would benefit from some development.

The use of multimedia as a vehicle for expression in this work was a wonderful choice. There were moments where projection and music were used in tandem to great effect, creating conversations onstage that let the audience in on private moments of self-evaluation, indulgence and reflection. From the escapist pop stylings of Kylie Minogue to a soothing Irish lullaby, each moment captured a sense of the internal state of being in a way that unveiled its poignancy for each of the characters.

Never one to shy away from audience participation, I was unconvinced by its use in this show. Upon entering the theatre we had each been given another patron’s anonymous judgment they had written on the little slip of paper handed out in the foyer. At one point in the show we were asked to read aloud what was written, an action that caused the character to shy away from the onslaught. I thought this was an insightful and connecting moment in the show but one that left me wondering if it could have been executed differently to greater effect.

Overall, ‘X’ is a thought-provoking piece of theatre that asks questions about an issue that touches each of us in one way or another, be it an addiction to alcohol, sex, chocolate or even Facebook. Sunny Drake is an engaging performer offering up a challenging and honest performance that entertains and makes use of various theatrical elements to communicate in a way that is honest and engaging. ‘X’ asks us to question and challenge our own beliefs and judgments about addiction and how this affects our relationship with others and ourselves, and offers up an accessible piece of theatre that will surely strike a chord with many audiences on its journey.

Premiering as part of The Independents 2012 ahead of its North American tour to the USA National Queer Arts Festival.

Written, Created & Performed by Sunny Drake Director & Dramaturg / Therese Collie Stop Motion Animator / ingrid k brooker Set and Props Designer/ Georgina Greenhill Lighting Design / Andrew Meadows Composer & Sound Designer / Brett Collery Creative Consultants / Brian Lucas & Candy Bowers

This project has received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland. X was developed with the support of Metro Arts and premiered as part of The Independents 2012. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. X was also sponsored by Health Communities.


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