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Your internet’s different to mine, doctor!
In a world of dead, or dying truths…
With lines like these, we know we’re in for an eviscerating look at the lives we live and life-style choices we make in Australian writer Cameron Sievers’ 15th play, Song For Simon Birmingham- A Lifestyle Choice. Or have forced upon us as is the case with the modern workplace, social media, in education, or our interpersonal relationships. A rich language fest, and linguisitically sophisticated run of cleverness, it plays comically upon national insecurities we all hold- fear of terrorism, the loss or privacy, political correctness, and communal compliance in a world threatened by technological and ideological takeover.
Dedicated to our Federal Minister of Education, this lament about knowledge, language, and the loss of real meaning is a witty series of short skits exceptionally presented by an ensemble cast of five of Melbourne’s best theatrical actors. With its vivid recreations of everyday exchanges, interactions, and systemic alienation, it has you on the edge of your seat, squirming in moments, as it spotlights the niceties of the age and peculiarities of modern expression. You will witness lots you recall from your own life as Sievers pulls the carpet out from underneath.
Language lies at the heart of this play and its clever ideas and literary inventiveness will transport you back to the pleasures of the text. Good writing is a commodity lost in the oceans of banality we are awash with in the 24/7 news cycle. Also, in the contemporary arts sector. Sievers does not shy away from analysis and critique of any area of culture. There are few rocks left unturned.
Scenes include the parent-teacher interview. Anxiety relief sold by literacy- based pharmacies. The disinterested job applicant. Auditioning for the role of tradesperson. Market Research’s generic questions.The incessantly barking neighbour’s dog. The Evening News. Sacrificing your first born in a bidding war at auction. And, my favourite, the Death Quiz show where Joshua Monaghan eerily recreates the hyper enthusiasm of tv host Grant Denyer as the deceased compete for popularity.
This show has everything good satire should have- incisive comment, strong language, great timing, irony, and dramatic smarts. Sievers is a confident hand who interrogates the powers-that- be who make the rules we are consigned to live under. There are some very funny moments and a deeper imperative at the base of these presentations. Laughs come from the Toilet Rodent sketch and troubles aboard a noisy train carriage. Spray on emotions you can purchase, ratings conducted by Ed Sheeran. The idiots among us who live in the dark of the Bell curve. Solitude’s love child, privacy. Online articles. The non-challenging desk job. Hamlet, Gertrude, and one dildo. These are the props and subjects of these clever little critical bites.
The text and roles cleverly show us what being dehumanised looks like. Claire Nicholls’ modulated drone hypnotically foretells a time when voices will speak as implant, anything with a pulse rate removed. Paul Robertson’s comical facial expressions and graphic gestures show the human which will be superceded by better machines in times to follow. Kellie Tori convincingly plays the anxious, the neurotic, and the entitled, and Lee Cook scares with dark, Hitchcockian certainty as he enters the space as the killer who requests an AVO- on himself. Tori eloquently personify the dead vocal nuances of the news announcer, interrupting the flurry of folly that are our human lives, bemoaning the death of truth. This is clever and forensically insightful comedy.
In a world where being seen to be compliant, accommodating, equitable, egalitarian, available, optional, refundable, and commodified is de rigeur, be reminded of what is lost as we chase – or are chased by- Progress. See this play for a giggle, a rollicking laugh at the ridiculous things we have to do just to survive day-to-day in the early 21st Century. For a collective sigh of recognition. And if you wish for a preview of the absurdities to come. Sievers and Co. last year began a webseries. See more of his brand of hilarity at Skitfaced on Vimeo.
Sarah W. is a dance-trained Theatre Specialist with a flair for the bold, and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street, or in the box seat, she looks for quality works that push the envelope.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Hatching Communications and La Mama Theatre.
Image credit: Chris Bennett, Underground Media, Matthew Quigley.