On reading about the development process of Moving Target, you wonder if the finished play will be as intriguing and suspenseful as the Sydney Opera House website suggests. Director Benedict Andrews and writer Marcus Von Mayenburg met for a week to create a new work. By the end of the week, they had what Andrews describes as a “beautiful, dense, chaotic collage.” A group of actors then began improvised rehearsals based on ideas in the collage. The script was written after the first period of rehearsals.
The first half of the play is like the development process itself, chaos. Props are thrown, stacked, folded and unfolded. The play threatens to became one hide and seek game after another and you wonder how much of this you can take.
Thankfully, things pick up in the second half of the play. The story is best described as a post 9/11 take on the Midwich Cookoos. The actors play parents who are constantly on the look out for signs their children have joined terrorist cells and will turn violent on them. One child is seen to put a green parcel in a bin. Debate rages about whether to talk to it, or call in a security team.
These people are hiders and do nothing. In the growing climate of fear, they continue to play their childish games as a way of comforting themselves. Their games of hide and seek become increasingly chaotic as they realise that their inactions will have consequences too.
The set is a box with white walls and floor. This gives a clinical look and a chilling feel to the play. The play’s climax is genuinely suspenseful, with actors sealing off the front of the stage with masking tape.
The play is physically demanding on the six actors with much lifting of props. The three men give strong performances. Matthew Whittet and Hamish Michael prove particularly versatile. The women can sometimes appear unnecessarily dopey and therefore annoying.
The play achieves a good lever of coherence and suspense despite its chaotic development process. It is very successful in using this community of fear as a microcosm to comment on the current age of terror. While there are some tedious moments, this unique play is worth a look.
Venue: The Studio | Sydney Opera House
Dates/Times: 2 – 5 & 9 – 12 April @ 8.15pm, 8 April @ 6.30pm, 13 April @ 8.15pm, 6 & 13 April @ 5pm
Tickets: From $20 to $49 or $20 to $39 concession
Bookings: 9250 7777 or www.sydneyoperahouse.com/thestudio