It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a play at Darebin’s Northcote Town Hall (due to COVID), and same for my plus one, so I was eagerly excited when I stumbled across promo for “Enlightenment”, written by Joe Paradise Lui, directed by Jamie Lewis. Darebin’s programming rarely disappoints my fussy palette which is drawn to diverse stories, stories that introduce me to new worlds.
And I was not to be disappointed once again. From the moment I stepped into the theatre I was transported, like I had entered some kind of dreamtime story, a Chinese myth or Buddhist legend that’s been passed down for generations. “Joe Lui, re-imagines two characters from a towering story of his childhood,” the blurb reads. “Part romantic comedy, part crime saga, and part cosmic fever dream, ‘Enlightenment’ is a dark, hilarious and moving parable.”
The stage was setup like a giant staircase, red lighting, with a colourful, striking image hanging from a long sheet, the face of a female in what seemed like a traditional Chinese outfit. But she was wearing a mask. The image, by renowned artist and activist 巴丢草 (Badiucao), was like a warning of what was to come.
Red satin sheets, a one night stand, Tinder and swiping with disrespect, racism and police brutality, the politics of today were cleverly blended with stories of the past using the mythological characters Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and the Monkey King. Both depicted as male in their traditional stories, in the play ‘Enlightenment’ they are portrayed as female, which could possibly be considered taboo in Chinese culture, especially when Siddhartha’s meaningless flings are challenged when she falls hard for a Monkey King hell-bent on changing the world.
The acting in ‘Enlightenment’ really brought this play to life, I felt the rage, I felt the passion, which is a testament to writer Joe Paradise Lui, because the writing was raw, emotive, punchy, and very real. This is what you ultimately want from theatre, to be moved in this way, and coupled with the costume design and direction, this is what you got. ‘Enlightenment’ will definitely enlighten.
Koraly Dimitraidis is a Cypriot-Australian writer and performer and the author of Love and F—k Poems and Just Give Me The Pills which together form the basis of her theatre show “I say the wrong things all the time”. Her opinion articles/essays have been published widely including international publications in The Washington Post. Koraly was awarded a Darebin Arts Speakeasy grant in 2020 but she does not have any affiliations with any of the cast or crew members of this show.
“Enlightenment” runs 10 March – 20 MARCH 2021 Theatre Works. Book tickets here.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Elbow Room
Photo credit: Devika Bilimoria