The curse of being haunted by past love – Review of “Day After Terrible Day”

Day After Terrible Day” by The Danger Ensemble is now showing at Theatre Works in St Kilda, and let’s just say that if you have difficulties letting go of past or current destructive love, then this show is going to hit you like a truck.

To get me to the theatre these days, there has to be something in the premise that strikes a chord in me. In this case, it was director and designer Steven Mitchell Wright’s quote which accompanied the blurb in the Theatre Works newsletter: “This show is for anyone who has loved hard, wholly and without restraint then had it ended, without closure or explanation”. Working on my debut fiction novel on-and-off for seventeen years about a first love that haunts you decades on, I could instantly relate. I had to see what this was all about.

As a poet who writes about love, I have sometimes found that the industry itself can be a bit snobby about artists who are writing about love, marriage and weddings, like it’s so clichéd, like haven’t you got anything better to write about? But as I have matured and stood more solidly on my feet as an artist, I believe these stories are not only necessary but vital in understanding ourselves as humans and the psychology behind the “mystery” of what it is to love.

Day After Terrible Day is not a show but an eye-opening experience, devised by Chris Beckey, Eidann Glover, Deborah Leiser-Moore and Polly Sara. The blurb reads: Based on the true story of South African born Sydney woman: Eliza Emily Donnithorne, jilted on her wedding day and found 30 years later still clad in her bridal gown, the wedding feast uneaten and mouldered to dust. There are some further paragraphs in the blurb, and I would say that this would be the only fault of this show, that those further paragraphs didn’t accurately capture or do justice to the brilliance of this piece.

Greeted in the foyer by two smiley yet terrifying real-estate agents dressed in pink, their faces destroyed by too much plastic surgery, the audience is taken into an open-for-inspection for the sale of a house. There are no seats in Day After Terrible Day, instead the audience moves around, sits on the floor, explores, observes – and there is much to be absorbed.

The house, or stage design, is elegant and eye-pleasing, Victorian-style gothic, mirrors and chandleries, a formal living room with a long table and six-tier wedding cake, the costumes having a morbid, decaying aesthetic, which underpins the thematic of the show, how the influence of love 100 years ago affects how we live love today in 2022. The set works hand-in-hand with the lighting design by Ben Hughes, and the music design and visual projections, to create a haunting ambience that is at times scary and at times so beautiful it tips into sadness.

The acting and writing is passionate and poetic, full of nostalgia, longing and yearning. Confronting, eerie, heartbreaking, Day After Terrible Day was like a mirror being held up to my face. At times I actually had to look down to the ground, tears in my eyes, because I was so confronted by heartbreak and sadness, and how love can destroy the human body. It forced me to unpack within myself what love is, and to ask myself hard questions about how my mind processes and holds onto love. There is always the story we tell ourselves, the story we tell others, and the story of what really happened. The themes that Day After Terrible Day raised are especially relevant today, where love and destruction can sometimes blur, and in a world where we have become lost and disconnected from each other, holding onto love to fill the void can become the reality for some.

– Koraly

Koraly Dimitraidis is a Cypriot-Australian writer and performer and the author of Love and F—k Poems and Just Give Me The Pills. Her theatre show “I say the wrong things all the time” premiered at La Mama in 2016. She received Darebin Speakeasy funding in 2020 with Stephen Nicolazzo to develop a new theatre work. Koraly’s opinion articles/essays have been published widely including international publications in The Washington Post and The Guardian. She was awarded an associate artist residency at Theatre Works in 2020.  

“Day After Terrible Day” runs 1st – 12th November at Theatre Works, St Kilda. Book tickets here.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Theatre Works

Photo credit: Morgan Roberts