MKA: Theatre of New Writing, Melbourne
World Theatre Festival
Wednesday 13th – Sunday 17th February 2013
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
Featuring: Sarah Walker, Peter Paltos, James Deeth, Conor Gallacher, Marcus McKenzie, Zoey Dawson
Andrew has been having nightmares. He’s been doing everything to stop them.
MKA turn a tiny, carpeted corner of the Rooftop Terrace at the top of Brisbane Powerhouse into a place of mystery and horror, to tell the imagined tale of Andrew Berwick, a man very similar to Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway on July 22nd 2011. With no set, save for the exposed graffiti brick walls of the building, minimal props, and a cast of six bold actors, Director, Van Badham, takes a piece of re-imagined history and lays its ugly content out in neat little pieces. Badham presents a Wikipedia page in 4D, its paragraphs cleverly copied, and pasted out of chronological order, with Brechtian sub-headings telling us time and place in a matter-of-fact manner. The days seem ordinary. But we know that they are not.
Playwright, Tobias Manderson-Galvin, offers a chilling story that demands world attention without the judgment incited by global media.
As we enter the space, the story, like history, has already begun; an actor wearing a doleful cow mask stands tall, with several others in various positions (one fellow is sitting, miming paddling). All are red-sweatered, smiling, waving and singing peacefully. It’s a calm, pastoral scene, like the opening of a horror movie, creating a false sense of security, but not really, because it’s the calm before the storm and we feel an appropriate sense of foreboding… SOMETHING TERRIBLE IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
Gender blind casting helps us to separate from the horror of the story, the issues of aggression, violence and the disastrous influence of war games as part of the human state and not, as is so often the case, blamed on the male population in general. The performances are exceptional, precise and focused; this is an impressive ensemble effort.
Live musical elements – voice, percussion, guitar and a baby Korg – lend a rock star air to proceedings making it a really creepy space. But it’s not as frightening or as threatening as it could have been. Every word, every gesture, every look, is delivered with a patient and strategic deliberation. There’s nothing rushing at us and there are no missed opportunities. Every step of the way is just as calculated as Breivik’s own, during the days leading up to the massacre.
MKA is creating theatre to change the course of theatre. It’s disturbing on a level that goes far beyond any traditional thriller, leaving us cold, and wondering about the future of the human race.