Bondi Dreaming, put simply, is the story of three mates from Blacktown who end up in a prison for drug trafficking, awaiting the death penalty. While I may have simplified the narrative, the performance does just the opposite. It is a portrayal of not just how, but why, we find these three guys in prison. Essentially, the play explores, through a series of not-so-linear scenes how and more importantly why they made a choice that would see them face the death penalty.
However, what makes this production unique is that it’s beautifully stripped back to the bare bones of pure theatrical storytelling. The play quickly establishes itself as a production of conventions and not of linear three act realism. The first of these ‘conventions’ is its use of mime and role play to convey the bulk of the story.
What establishes this so effectively is the rapid fire with which Greg Hatton and Toby Levins deliver characters in scenes/moments and sequences that informed their (shall we say) destiny! This is later revealed to be just that, a convention, upon the arrival of Marcel Bracks' Makka.
In the tradition of this simplistic form of theatre there is no unnecessary prop, scene change or any such theatrical extravagance, save to say Tom Bannerman’s set. This could have warranted a review of its own! It was a well researched and crafted piece of scenery that exudes a pseudo-Buddhist charm while at the same time being cold and claustrophobic. While the country is never specified, the set subtly conveyed with Asian aesthetic influence and scene dressing, our location as being Asian. This recognition of space lent itself favourably to the dreamlike or ‘Never Never’ ambience of the whole production.
The second convention is the addition of live music to the piece, which does little more than support. Often I have seen productions where live music pulls focus from the performance. Alon Ilser has provided a subtle, but hugely effective, mix between sound FX (which are more convincing than a track being played through speakers) and a sound scape. Said sound scape, in conjunction with the non linear storytelling creates the ethereal atmosphere of the piece, alluded to above.
Sam Atwell’s script and direction left us with some genuinely moving and amusing moments. A cliché though it may sound, he was able to direct the actors and the dramatic action to places of considerable depth and thought provoking drama. What I took was less a didactic lesson on the evils of the death penalty and on drug trafficking and more of the mental health when put under the strain of incarceration and the knowledge of impending death.
Leaving such gloom aside, this is an example of what solid Fringe theatre should be and what can be achieved with a perfectly assembled line up of cast, director, script and crew.
The Seymour Centre presents a BITE and Actors Anonymous production
Written and Directed by Sam Atwell
Venue: Seymour Theatre Centre | Cnr Cleveland Street & City Road, Chippendale
Dates: 16 September – 10 October 2009
Times: Tuesday 6.30pm; Wednesday - Saturday 8pm; Matinee Wednesday 11.30am
Tickets: Adult $34; Concession $25; Tight Arse Tuesdays $20; School Groups $19
Bookings: 02 9351 7940 | www.seymourcentre.com.au