Posts Tagged ‘suicide


The Reality Event: Suicide

The Reality Event: Suicide

The Suicide Ensemble

Bean Cafe

May 12 – 17 2015 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris










SUICIDE forms the other half of THE REALITY EVENT – a double bill of work directed by Daniel Gough and devised by The Suicide Ensemble for Anywhere Theatre Festival. Performed alongside GAME, SUICIDE is an infamously controversial and provocative piece. As I made my way to Bean Café I tried to free myself of any expectations, but lurking in the back of my mind were stories I had heard about previous developments of SUICIDE – stories of audience members stopping the performance midway and people leaving the room in tears. This aside, I could not imagine anything that could possibly elicit such a strong reaction from me. I was proven wrong.



Like GAME, SUICIDE has a simple premise:

Five performers. Five simulated suicides.



The audience votes for who should die and how they should die. Despite its set-up, we are told from the very beginning that this performance is not about suicide. Instead it is a self-referential interrogation of where reality and construction meet in the context of theatre, art and more broadly, life. It is an open work that places the audience’s response at its centre.




Over the course of an hour, I witnessed each performer take their life using bleach, pills, tape, a gun and a knife. Before the performance had even begun, masked individuals slowly revealed each fatal instrument from a leather bag. This magnetic moment carried enough gravitas to set the tone for the rest of the performance.


Once again, the performers (including the masked “minions”) could not be faulted in their commitment to the performance.


Each individual stood openly before the audience and inflicted imagined pain upon himself or herself without reason or resistance.


Each suicide took place systematically – there was a set up, act and deconstruction (For example, the effect of bleach on the stomach lining was described in vivid detail). This emphasis on the physical act rather than commentary on suicide reinforced that the performance was not aboutsuicide. In saying this, I argue that not only is it impossible for SUICIDE to avoid the issue of suicide itself, it is also necessary in their interrogation of reality vs. construction which takes place on two levels.


The first level exists where reality and construction are blurred on stage. For example, performer Remi was asked by the audience to commit suicide by placing tape over her mouth, nose and eyes. Before Remi was “pronounced dead” and wrapped up in a tarpaulin, she clapped her hands (strapped behind her back) several times. The tape was ripped from her face and both Remi and the audience took a deep breath. In this moment, I became confused as to whether this moment was an accident (reality) or pre-planned (construction). I also became aware of the very real risk inherent within the performance.


The second level exists where reality and construction are blurred in the mind of the audience. Here, what is being shown on stage meets the experiences, knowledge and ideas of each audience member. It wasn’t until the final suicide, where performer Esther stabbed herself in the stomach, that my own personal life experience and what I saw on stage fused together. Hearing her scream with pain, I felt sick to the stomach and unexpectedly began to cry. At this point too, several audience members got up and left.


I don’t think I have ever been so viscerally and emotionally affected by a performance before.


To feel something so strong in an age of widespread desensitization is quite remarkable. We are surrounded by death in movies, on the news and on the Internet, but how do we respond?




This is only one of the questions raised by SUICIDE. It is a dense, multi-layered and thought provoking work, inciting plenty of post-show discussion and debate. For me, one of the most important questions SUICIDE raises is the ethics of performance: is it ethical to simulate death on stage, causing distress to the audience? Is it ethical to place performers at risk physically? I cannot answer these questions, but I must admit the performance didn’t sit well with me. And maybe that’s the point. As director Daniel Gough said at the end of the performance, it is these feelings of uneasiness that we should be left to consider.


Still, I am considering not only the performance but also my response to the performance. I believe the work has certainly realized its intent, but at what expense? I am intrigued and fascinated by the central idea of reality vs. construction, but wonder if there is some other vehicle that could be used to explore this idea.


Unfortunately the Anywhere Theatre Festival season of THE REALITY EVENT has now ended, however, The Suicide Ensemble is definitely a group to watch. The work they are making is important, unique and unapologetic. It’s work for the audience, which I believe relies on an ongoing discussion between artist and audience about its place in a broader context.



The Reality Event: GAME


The Reality Event: GAME

The Suicide Ensemble

Bean Cafe

May 12 – 17 2015


Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris











GAME represents one half of THE REALITY EVENT – a double bill of work directed by Daniel Gough and devised by The Suicide Ensemble for Anywhere Theatre Festival. The premise of THE REALITY EVENT is simple, and the result chaotic…


“This is theatre for the people. Two performances: SUICIDE and GAME. Each plays a part in finding out what your world is really made of. We’ve made something big. But it’s time to burn it down. Come be destructive with us.”


It had been a long time since I’d been this excited for a performance.




As I walked through a dark alleyway on my way to the venue, performers donned in rubbish bags greeted me and directed me to the entrance of Bean Cafe. I knew I was in for a gritty night. The underground café, while small, proved to be an inviting and energetic space – the perfect venue for an “underground” performance. Back in the alleyway, the hosts laid down the rules, the performers were introduced, and inside, the game began. Over the next hour, five performers, supported by their team of audience members, battled it out for the title of winner. I witnessed as balloons were popped with a large rubber object, eggs were thrown at dancing performers and a mix of yoghurt, spam and gherkins was hesitantly consumed.


At this stage you may be having trouble imagining all of this, and that’s because GAME is a work that needs to be experienced.


It’s important to acknowledge that its origins lie in the tradition of performance art more than theatre, with clear influences from international companies such as Gob Squad. GAME has no characters, no set and no script. And without you (the audience), it would not exist.


This emphasis on audience participation and improvisation means that not only will each performance be different, but each audience member’s response to the performance will be different. I get the sense that this individual response is what GAME is all about.


For me, GAME was a playful experience made possible by the vibrant energy and personality of each of the performers. Their commitment was admirable, and their sense of fun infectious. The whole performance felt like an echo of my generation – the type of perverse thing that I’d watch on YouTube with my friends and laugh. While physical audience participation was relatively minimal, I felt engaged and involved throughout, cheering for “Team Pavle” from the sidelines.


As the game progressed and the tasks became more cringe-worthy, I found it difficult to watch. But still, I couldn’t look away. What did this say about me? About my generation? These were interesting questions but I’m not sure they were the ones The Suicide Ensemble was asking. In fact, for all its moments of brilliant fun and dark play, I felt the intention of GAME was unclear. I left the performance questioning the significance of my response in light of their intent: what was the point of this game?


There is no denying that the audience has been considered when creating GAME, however; this type of work, which relies so heavily on the audience’s involvement can reveal a gap between intent and reception in performance. As the ensemble itself says, “In truth, we’re never sure how it’s going to go…because you aren’t there yet.” While GAME is a well-considered and carefully structured piece, I feel there is potential for it to be developed further, incorporating audience feedback from this first development.




GAME has the potential to ask more, to push the boundaries further and to include the audience more completely. But in this underground cafe are the beginnings of a new work that is young, fresh and ambitious.


It’s fun. It’s rebellious, and most importantly it’s the type of work you really don’t want to just hear about second hand.




The Effect


The Effect


The GreenHouse Bille Brown Studio

June 7 – July 5 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


Depression and anxiety are common conditions.


Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.


On average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives.


Anxiety is the most common mental condition in Australia. On average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – will experience anxiety.


Women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the year following birth. Almost 1 in 10 women experience antenatal depression, and 1 in 7 in the postnatal period. Anxiety is likely to be as, or more, common.


At least six Australians take their own lives every day.








Dee and I have joked about our chemical imbalance; as if it’s a collective thing from which women-who-do-too-much suffer (of course it’s not just the women). When I remember the stats and think of everybody I know I have to wonder…which of us are NOT depressed!?



Act 1 of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect is upbeat, fun and funny. It doesn’t take long to establish the four characters that tell an amusing and then very moving tale about a highly controversial couple of subjects. Despite everybody being a little too sharply drawn to begin with, it takes just ten minutes for the production to settle and for the characters and their relationships to develop into warm and interesting enough stories. And I love getting not-quite-the-full-story. There is much to establish in the first act – the participants of a clinical drug trial, the trial itself, the clinicians, and the premise – can happiness (and depression) be attributed to an altered chemical state in the brain?


By the end of the production there are almost two plays at work, which seems to be a sign (or symptom) of new work. I wish I’d written enough to tell you that from personal experience, but it’s only through seeing the work of other new playwrights that I can safely say we’ve seen before, two tales in one.


Act 2 takes a (not entirely unexpectedly intense) turn, challenging us to consider more seriously our choices and the ensuing consequences. It balances dangerously between conversational and preachy tone, with an extended scene between the medical professionals almost giving us too much of the debate, and repetitively so. I notice myself beginning to turn off, tune out and think, “So when is the pedophile thing going to come up? (This is not my spoiler. It’s within a quote in Prebbles’s bio. This marks the first time ever I wish I hadn’t read the program notes before seeing the play). The debate itself is an oldie but a goodie: do we medicate for depression or not? If not, why not? Can we heal ourselves of the epidemic sadness sweeping the world? You could get depressed just thinking about it! Or you could come up with, let’s say, a lucrative online project and collaborate with a popular stationary line. Yes, of course I have the books!



The space is glossy; so glossy it’s highly reflective and we see ourselves in the sterile black walls. White floors are harsh, cold, and blue shiny chairs offer a false sense of security and a superficial level of calm around the edges. Cruel fluro light is emitted from above and a light box dance floor features below. I’d love to put it into my kitchen (we’ve always danced in the kitchen). But more on lighting later.


Eugene Gilfedder, in one of his strongest roles to date, gets the balance just right. He’s the once flirtatious, now serious, always ambitious professional medic turned motivational speaker, Toby (a phone call away from a TED Talk!), and he makes a good case for the sensitive, older, Noah style long-term love interest. If you ever picked up the sequel to The Notebook (no, it’s not a film; you’ll have to read the book), it’s to that Noah I refer, the Noah who quietly, persistently and courageously conspires to reignite his wife’s love for him after many years of a “happy” marriage.




Toby’s foil is Dr James (Angie Milliken), who has endured childhood abuse and feels as if her old flame has done her a rather ironic favour by putting her in charge of the clinical trial of a new super anti-depressant. Her story, I think, is the second tale told and could be more sensitively treated under its own title.


Anna McGahan (always gorgeous to see her on stage) and Mark Leonard Winter (bringing gorgeous, lively new energy to this stage) are the unlikely punters who enter into an agreement with the imagined pharmaceutical company Raushen to trial for four weeks, a so-called happiness drug. Winter’s character, Tristan, has done this before – the money the drug companies pay him per trial allows him to travel the world – but for McGahan’s character, Connie, this is the first time, perhaps as some sort of escape or respite. But who is actually on the drug and who is given a placebo or some other concoction? How do we know if the emotions are real or merely the side effects of the drug? And if everybody is happy, in love, does it even matter?


What price happiness?


The relationship between Connie and Tristan comes across as a warm, immediate and very genuine thing, despite its corny start in the waiting room of the facility they share for the duration of the trial. It’s actually every girl’s worst waiting room nightmare, trapped in a small public space with a random trying to crack onto her. But love – or the effect of the drug – brings them together and we enjoy some lovely early dialogue to establish the attraction and later, a choreographed sex scene that depends as much on its lighting states as its posturing.




These two handle it well and the scene becomes very cinematic, beautifully so, but it’s still so strange to watch even a slightly dressed sex scene, isn’t it!? I know, I know, what do you do? It kinda’ works!


Much of the effect of the drama can be attributed to Sarah Goodes’ astute direction and the collaboration with lighting designer, Ben Hughes, who creates with Designer Renee Mulder, a dream-like version of a hospital nightclub. It exists somewhere between a mental asylum and a sci-fi galaxy government headquarters, ideal in this studio space, especially after relaxing pre-show in the gorgeous, cosy new library area of The GreenHouse. Guy Webster’s soundscape keeps us in a perpetual state of nothingness, or as I like to think, openness, and I love it and loathe it, like Camille’s album. It’s fascinating that not everybody hears it – Dee didn’t until I mentioned it – it’s that inner ear vibration that exists behind everything else and if it’s the wrong pitch (for you) it might override everything else and become seriously irritating. There are times when I blame it for the onset of a migraine, but not this time.


As much as I love the fun and vibe (and Veuve) of opening nights, I don’t mind seeing a production a week or so into its run, when all the elements have settled and the actors are well and truly back into storytelling mode, rather than, “Aargh! It’s opening night!” mode. You have until July 5 to catch The Effect before it heads to Sydney and you should, not just for the challenging conversation it will spark during the days following but also, for the private thoughts conjured as you catch yourself in the mirror it holds up to each and every one of us.



A Tender Thing: Romeo and Juliet Remixed

A Tender Thing

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

Full Circle Theatre & Brisbane Powerhouse

9th – 18th May 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


A Tender Thing

Romeo and Juliet Remixed:


It’s the story of star cross’d lovers…but not as you know it.



Another Romeo and another Juliet in a strikingly different love story.


Re-imagining the text of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, British playwright Ben Power has remixed the greatest love story ever told to create an achingly beautiful new story of two older people.


Commissioned and premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009, and featured at the World Shakespeare Festival at Stratford in September last year, this 80 minute work for two actors is a provocative new tale of love and sacrifice.


Playing at the Visy Theatre at Brisbane Powerhouse until May 18 is a beautiful take on Romeo and Juliet, which was commissioned by the RSC for its premiere in 2009. Reimagined by Ben Power (literary manager, dramaturge and playwright), yet using Shakespeare’s words, we see for the first time in Australia, this intriguing, very gentle version, which presents the star-cross’d lovers at the end of their life together. In fact it could be any couple, at the end of their life together.


The themes are ageless, universal; if you see nothing of yourself in these characters or in their relationship, you’ll recognise your parents, or your grandparents, or somebody else you know well because they are quite beautifully drawn here by the actors, if not completely settled as individuals. Don’t worry, they will be by the time you see it. The best thing that can happen between now and the rest of the season is that each actor borrows a little from the other. I’ll explain in a minute but first, I’d better tell you this:


Full Circle Theatre allowed me to see the preview, which is not something I make a habit of. As you’ve read here before, it’s understood that a preview is part of the rehearsal process; a final chance to “get things right” before the season opens. So it’s unusual to review a preview but I knew I wouldn’t get the chance to see A Tender Thing otherwise. And as far as previews go, Thursday night’s was pretty slick.



Imagine if Romeo and Juliet had lived, and enjoyed a long, happy life together?



Director, Linda Davey, and actors, Flloyd Kennedy and Michael Croome, have taken the playwright’s notion of a “re-mix” and run with it, offering insight into the stuff of long-term relationships; the bit that happens after the honeymoon. It’s tough, isn’t it? I know. And I know you know. Preach. Choir. Not gonna’ do it. Sam and I have been married for ten years (and together for almost fourteen), and I know there have been times when he’s wished he’d had an obliging apothecary just up the road and around the corner. There have been TESTING TIMES. There have been times when neither of us remembers what brought us together. Or kept us together. Or will keep us together.



There are times when we talk about things that are NOT THEATRE RELATED AND NEITHER OF US KNOW WHO WE ARE.



A Tender Thing certainly makes you think.


Freddy Komp’s thoughtful design lets us into several private spaces within the one setting; a lived-in weatherboard beach cottage, such as we anticipate seeing in a traditional staging of David Williamson’s work. Clever use of recycled timber, sand, bark and living plants in the intimate Visy Theatre lets us get close to this couple in the comfort and familiarity of their home.


An evocative soundscape and score (Scott Norris) works with moody lighting (Daniel Anderson) to highlight the twilight years of the relationship. Many memories are stirred in me – sound and images will do that – they’re simple things, from early on in my own marriage, like putting on Robbie Williams’ DVD Swing When You’re Winning to act like a sage smudge in the house when the other half is feeling down. I’m not sure the shifting, melting images thrown across the back wall made me feel the same way (in fact, they turned my thoughts to recent discussions with artists about combining live theatre and MRI images, so I was thinking, “Yeah, that could work! Let’s do it!”). In the end, as things so often do, the images become clearer and serve as a vivid reminder of the beginning.





While Kennedy’s work on the preview night came across as slightly self-indulgent, Croome’s vocals needed attention. It seems, from some recent examples we’ve been seeing around and about, that the connections between the breath and the voice, and between the voice and the body are perhaps not getting the same attention as they once were. I’ve been thinking about this lately. Are we too focused on being multi-disciplined and self-serving now, ready to forge a career in The Arts Industry and yet still not ready to take on a role? I recently saw a mature age student in a new drama course on the Sunshine Coast absolutely kill Juliet’s Gallop apace piece. It was a lusty, fiery delivery that left no doubt in our minds about the meaning of the monologue, even without (as the treatment of the text in this context demanded) her interrupting a younger student’s performance and schooling her on Juliet’s intent. Wow! We get it! Bravo!


A Tender Thing

I expected this pair, with their training and their “two lifetimes worth of experience” to give us a complete master class on delivering Shakespeare. As I mentioned, both Kennedy and Croome will have settled into their roles and taken a little of the other’s expertise on board by the time you get to see this production. And you should see it, particularly if you’re a theatre practitioner, or somebody in a relationship. There are some perfect moments, including Kennedy’s, “I have forgot why I did call thee back”, Croome’s take on the arrival of morning (this scene is so perfectly reversed we wonder why the lines were ever given to Juliet), and his unfailing, endearing support of his beloved wife, particularly in their dance together, which is perhaps the most telling, moving moment of all. Again, I thought of The Notebook. And of Up.


We know this story so well (if you don’t, you’ll certainly enjoy the show, however, a deeper knowledge of Shakespeare’s original text will enhance the experience), and this is that familiar tale, only it’s dressed in a beautifully coloured, patterned and textured new coat. It’s a brilliant cut-and-paste job by Powers, a study of ageing and enduring love; layers and layers that will get you talking (or mulling over) your own relationships and those around you. Full Circle Theatre have indeed succeeded in producing dramatically significant work that allows us to explore and return to ideas and thus see the familiar from a new perspective.




Cybersin & suicide prevention

Cybersin, a Sunshine Coast produced anti-bullying film, supported by The CorriLee Foundation, was released on Monday September 5th and yesterday, it aired on the popular morning show, Sunrise. With John Jarrett playing the father of a girl who commits suicide after she is cyber-bullied, Evette Henderson’s film was always going to get some attention. In fact, Jarret’s scene, in which he breaks down in front of the mirror in the bathroom before – we assume – going downstairs to greet the guests at his daughter’s wake, is probably the best, in terms of suddenly raising the stakes and asking us to consider the long-term and broader effects of bullying somebody online. That got me. What doesn’t wash so well with me is the inference that the girl’s suicide has occurred after one incidence of cyber-bullying. Now, wait a second. I’m not saying it’s okay to bully (or to be bullied) just the once and I’m not questioning anybody’s decision to choose death over life…well, actually, I am but we’ll get to that in a later post. My problem is this. What exactly are we teaching about bullying and more specifically, in this case, cyber-bullying? What skills and attitudes and approaches are we handing on to our kids so that they may have the courage, strength and support networks to CHOOSE LIFE! If you’re an 80’s child, like I am, you’ll know that the slogan wasn’t just a WHAM! thing.

Launched in 1983 CHOOSE LIFE was part of a range of protest T-shirts by designer Katherine Hamnett.

Perhaps this is the reason behind some school administrations’ claims that the film is “too controversial” to be shown to their students. They think one incident will prompt the most drastic action from copycats. Is that it? It must be because otherwise, I can’t see which aspect of the 8 minutes is too controversial – personally, I feel the message could have been stronger – but such is the bureaucracy in schools these days and good luck getting anything slightly controversial through (though Summer Bay continues to crop up in genre studies, doesn’t it?) Talk to the teachers and parents on the weekends and you’ll hear what actually needs to be discussed (and probably that there is little time to discuss anything “additional”). So what is being discussed? What needs to be discussed further? How do young adults feel when they see Cybersin? Or when they see the many YouTube clips pertaining to suicide stories or (horror) footage from live television shows or cyber-bullying in general or the following TED talk, which you should just stop and take in now…

For me, suicide is no taboo. I’m not 100% comfortable talking about it and I don’t understand some of the things I hear from those who have contemplated suicide or have been affected by suicide. I am unable to understand, for instance, what it is that pushes a person over the edge – what it is that makes you take that step off solid ground, from which you can’t come back, even if you change your mind at the last moment – but I’m not unable to talk about it. We need to talk about it. And, more importantly, we need to listen to those who want to talk about it. Some of the kids are already talking about it. Some of them don’t know how to start. But if we don’t tune in we’ll miss it. The entire conversation. This short film will, at the very least, get the conversations started and that is to be commended. Congrats and thanks to Evette and to all involved in the production and promotion of the film on the Sunshine Coast, using local talent, contributing to the growth of our Screen Industry as well as simply and boldly telling this story and sharing it with those who are ready to listen. Is it you?

Watch Cybersin for yourself and let us know what sort of conversations you are having.

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you’re on the Sunshine Coast, meet at 5:35am at The Esplanade, Cotton Tree and walk out of the shadows and into the light to raise awareness and raise funds for suicide prevention.

Date: 10 September 2011
Time: 5.35am
Meeting place: The Esplanade, Cotton Tree between First and Second Avenues
Contact:Lee-Anne Borham

Check the website to find a walk near you or register your own walk.

Click Atttending on the Facebook event page

And if you know somebody who needs to talk and wants to do so anonymously, give them one of these numbers

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Lifeline  13 11 14


Download Lifeline Service Finder iPhone App

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