Sneakers = shoes – like Converses, right? Wrong. In 2021, thirteen years from now, Sneakers are forbidden, Sneakers are breaking the law, Sneakers are sneaky, sinister, sex-obsessed teenagers (...you would have thought more would have changed in thirteen years!).

Written by Michele Lee, Sneakers presents a satirical dystopic vision of Australia as a totalitarian state. In this future, Australia is occupying Indonesia in order to protect the nation and its freedom (sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it?). At home, a new schooling system has been adopted, and all of the Australian teenagers are studying for their graduate exams – from which they will receive streamed specialised training in order to support and protect the state. Sneaking is forbidden! But we all know that totalitarian states never really work – especially when sex-obsessed teenagers are involved!

A play and concept which has been in development since Lee was fourteen years old, Sneakers has changed and developed with Lee and her world; references to September 11th, the Bali Bombings, and the Iraq war are hard to omit in a piece of 21st century writing. First titled, There’s more to life than this, the original concept was a simple story of a teenage girl, Torii, and her friend Sam who was in love with her. It is interesting to see how Sneakers, the most recent incarnation of the story, has transformed. In some ways the transformation needs greater development, as quite a few holes and gaps appear  in the story and its logic (although, I guess it is described as a ‘teenage melodrama’ – no one really cares if The Bold and The Beautiful makes sense do they).

However, leaving the theatre, I was left wondering why teenage sex would become euphemised as Sneaking in the near future. And why, if Sneaking was forbidden, the other freedoms such as partying, drinking, smoking, and going out with friends would not also be forbidden. Sneaking seemed relatively easy – yes, informants could be your best friend and dob you in, but hey, you still got to satisfy your sex-obsession before being sent to Indonesia where you could probably continue to Sneak with everyone else who had also committed the crime. In real life, totalitarian states work because they brain-wash their victims and make them become their own oppressors. Maybe I am trying to find logic where it was not intended, maybe the play was a critique of the futility of rules and regulations – either way, the basic plot and ultimate message of the play seemed a little blurry.

Despite this, and other problems mentioned in the program, such as the rebuilding of sets and the replacing of cast members, the production itself was surprisingly polished. The small ensemble (Alia Vryens, Nicholas Lynn, Sara-Tabitha Catchpole, Mark Nunan, Christine Robinson, and Laurie Clancy) created characters easily recognisable to the audience within the strange futuristic vision of Australia - skilfully created through set (Alisa Tanaka-King) and sound (Marco Cher-Gibard). The monotone palette of the minimalistic set evoked a militaristic setting, with the surveillance cameras and piles of TVs echoing Orwell’s Big Brother. The soundscape jarred with the set, creating a beautiful contrast, through the use of sounds from nature along with computer-generated moans of pleasure from the adults in power - who have the freedom to ‘make love’, but seem to have lost the pleasure that the Sneakers enjoy.

Sneakers ≠ shoes. Sneakers = a strangely satirical vision of a sexy and smoky Australia.


Theatre in Bars
Sneakers
by Michele Lee

Venue: Studio 2, Northcote Town Hall, 189 High Street, Northcote
Dates: 6-16 August 2008, Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8pm all shows
Tickets: Adults $15 | Sneakers $12
Bookings: 0418 121 393 or

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