2,000 Feet Away | Frogbattleship / B SharpSomething’s rotten in the state of Iowa. Terrible things are happening to children. Hysterical residents demand that something be done. A new law is hurriedly passed which states that sex offenders can’t live within 2,000 feet (600 metres) of schools. Yet it’s not enough and it’s quickly expanded to include: day care centres, parks, shopping malls, swimming pools, even bus stops and libraries. This law is not fiction, it was passed in 2005. For Australian Playwright Anthony Weigh, it sparked a number of questions that needed exploring - the resulting work is 2000 Feet Away

It’s a surprisingly upbeat play (considering the subject matter) full of lively characters that have a kind of hyper-real technicoloured nostalgia. We could be watching an old trashy American road movie or reading a comic book - the animated illustrations (Brett Boardman) give it that feel. There’s pop culture galore, hamburgers and pickles and the ubiquitous flicker of the TV, but this stereotyping is deliberate and serves a greater purpose, it allows us to disassociate with reality just long enough to let our guard down. Then into minds creep doubts: “Are all sex crimes of the same magnitude? Should we feel sympathy for the offenders? Can they perhaps be reformed?”

It’s a great cast featuring strong and engaging performances by Nicholas Hope, Belinda McClory, Darren Weller and Colin Moody - fresh from his dramatic S.T.C exit. Moody is likeable here as the quintessential doughnut loving Deputy Hallsy Moss. It’s his job to juggle the competing priorities of a community turned upside down by the logistics of the new law. There’s a kind of red tape lunacy to his activities as we follow him on his rounds evicting sex offenders from their homes in one scene, then struggling to help them find new lodgings in the next. With the 2,000 feet law making most places in the town off limits, offenders like piano teacher AG (Darren Weller) are forced to live marginalized lives in seedy highway motels with other seemingly much worse perpetrators, like the deliciously creepy Nicholas Papademetriou.

AG is soft, sweet, sympathetic and uncomfortably nice. He’s the pedophile we want to be, if we had to be one! That’s the confronting nature of this play. We not only sympathize, we empathize too. Weigh walks us down a narrow path and onto a precipice and basically says “don’t look down, stay with me” and we do, but it’s morally rough terrain. 

America loves a witch hunt and there are shades of The Crucible here. People point fingers, “I saw him driving slow past the school looking at the girl’s doing calisthenics” says ‘Woman’ (Tanya Goldberg) to Deputy Hallsy. That kind of crazy lock-up-your-daughter’s paranoia that is so Mid-West American pervades this play. But “if we must have safety at any cost, what then is the price?” questions Weigh

Even more confronting, the town’s children have a sinister power of their own - if Natascha Flower’s ‘Girl,’ a loquacious Lolita-esque nymphet is anything to go by. It’s this examination of the uncomfortable nature of emerging sexuality that makes the play riveting to watch and it’s well handled by director Lee Lewis. The use of lighting (Verity Hampson) is interesting too, allowing the characters to look through us and out into a larger world.

Towards the end I’m disturbed by how much I want to take to the streets and fight for sex offenders’ rights, although then I’m pulled up short - there’s a very young child who makes an appearance. It is only then that we are reminded of the hideous and disturbing nature of these crimes and the vulnerability of those on whom they are perpetrated. 

It’s gripping stuff and will definitely give you something to talk about after the show.

Frogbattleship in association with B Sharp presents
by Anthony Weigh

Venue: Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre | 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills
Dates: Friday November 2 – Sunday November 25
Plays: Tues 7pm, Wed-Sat 8.15pm, Sun 5.15pm
Tickets: $29/$23 (Preview $20, Cheap Tues Pay-what-you-can min $10)
Bookings: 9699 3444 or www.belvoir.com.au

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