He’s Seeing Other People Now

He's Seeing Other People Now

Metro Independents, Anna McGahan & Melanie Wild

Sue Benner Theatre

5th – 21st July 2012

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Lord Acton (1834-1902)

Big Brother is watching you…

It’s Brisbane (but not as we know it) and it’s about to burn. It’s probably best, considering that no one is allowed to touch, talk much or even eat on the city’s trains or in its streets…the people are being watched, Big Brother style, and by Big Brother; I don’t mean the “reality” commercial television hit! It’s Brisbane’s worst nightmare and all we can do is hope that this frightening futuristic scenario remains contained within the realm of the play.

Image by Amelia Dowd

He’s Seeing Other People Now is Heath Ledger Scholarship winner, Anna McGahan’s bold debut as a playwright, though you may better know her as an actor – unforgettable – in Underbelly: Razor. Strangely, the actress we see on stage looks a little like McGahn. She is Katy Curtain, paired perfectly with the faultless Norman Doyle. During more than one interlude, he generously shares the full gamut of emotion while she shows us mere glimpses of what’s happening on the inside. They are beautifully balanced as Fay and Archie, an enormous distance between them, in a world that is hell-bent on destroying any attempts by the two to get to know each other. They are not the same Fay and Archie though, that we see each time we hear the Disney read-aloud storybook “ding”, indicating that the metaphorical page may be turned and a new scene begun.

One of the final sequences is a projection of Curtain, from the mirror’s POV, readying herself to go out after curfew. I wanted to watch the real Curtain in the nook next to the stage space but found myself enthralled by her stunning image cast, in extreme close-up, upon the screen as the real-time footage was streamed. I also loved the political porn star caught out by the audience member during a telling Q&A session, which follows the screening of her controversial film but I had to wonder sometimes about why we needed to meet some of the other characters at all. With each new scene there is a new tale to be told within the already layered story (and a new set of characters to tell it). With the pace moving as swiftly as the trains projected onto the screen behind, you’d better be concentrating in order to keep up. In fact, just try to look away!

Image buy Amelia Dowd

I tried because I like to get a sense of how the audience is responding to the work but I couldn’t allow my eyes to stray too long from optikal bloc’s incredible imagery; these guys, Craig Wilkinson and Stephen Brodie, are unwittingly the stars of the show, doing for Brisbane theatre what U2 did for the world of pop music. With a strict curfew looming, we find ourselves at a propaganda-plastered Central Station and then, suddenly, magically, in real time as the actors move, we join Fay and Archie inside one of the train’s compartments. This is new, neat work and if you pride yourself on keeping up with the local scene, you’ll make sure you see this show for its slick creative win. As this show develops, very little in this regard needs to change. Subtle, slightly moody lighting by Daniel Anderson and an eerie sound design, incorporating surprisingly upbeat (under the government-enforced circumstances, but then this is the point) voiceovers by Lucas Stibbard and Barb Lowing, by composer, Phil Slade, support the AV. Along with Designer, Jessica Ross, the talented team produces effects on stage to rival some of the current creative favourites and makes it easier for us to take on board the challenging themes by making them even more familiar, more sinister..

Director, Melanie Wild, has kept her set simple and her actors unencumbered, allowing the actors and the design team to create the totalitarian world we find ourselves in for the 60 minutes duration (yes, it’s intense) and uses her crew to throw us off balance, making us wonder where we are by the end of it all.

Without giving anything away, the final five minutes of the show is brilliant and bewildering, surely challenging even the most experienced theatregoer. Be prepared to be taken completely by surprise and then be prepared to be taken out of the space before (well, actually, in lieu of) witnessing any sort of satisfying conclusion to the play! Convincingly executed, the meta-theatrics of He’s Seeing Other People Now are sure to inspire more heated discussion than its political themes will.

Image by Amelia Dowd

McGahan’s is rare new work; in that it feels incomplete but also manages to tackle massive, relevant issues within its story as well as challenge us to reconsider the notion of what theatre is (and what it’s for). I can’t wait to see what becomes of this piece. It infuriates me and intrigues me. Look for it in another form or in its next creative development phase at a theatre near you.

1 Response to “He’s Seeing Other People Now”

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