Force Majeure’s co-production with Sydney Theatre Company is a visual smorgasbord of socially intoxicating issues around parenting, germinating from the themes that Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap planted. Never Did Me Any Harm looks at the responsibilities of parenting, disciplining, parent-child relationships of confidentiality and trust, childish couples, and young parents, against contemporary and traditional Australian cultural viewpoints.
The opening image is stunning. Two clothed bodies, lit by thin streams of light, make their sex indistinguishable. They stand close. They are related. As the light increases by a number of slowly drawn white shards drawing lines over the intersecting bodies, a couple, expecting a baby, becomes the feature on a well-manicured astro-turfed lawn. The opening imagery inspires feelings of being at a crossroad, where a line painter has gone stir crazy. This visceral imagery reflects a possible internalised split introducing the differing of opinions about to follow.
The verbatim style theatre unravels points of view about parenting in voice over. Direct address to the audience in voice over succeeds in creating the feeling of being inside the heads of the two characters onstage. The actor-dancers' characters enact the story using a lip-synced physical dialogue that communicates more that the text. It is a highly connected and crisply choreographed movement sequence, relaying the story through physical language, creating visceral intimacy.
Worth a mention is the outstanding lighting and set design by Geoff Cobham. Although it looks like a typical Australian backyard, with clapped out shed, broken down fences, and a garden seat complete with overhanging tree, it is covertly transformed into an isolating, unstable and warped world full of commands, ‘shoulds’ and uncertainty. At times, the cleverness of the sound design combined with the visual illusions of instability that Cobham creates masterfully overwhelms the characters and the dialogue.
With a cast that includes Tracy Mann, Alan Flower, and Vincent Crowley, this exciting, thought provoking, moving and downright creatively excellent contemporary hybrid theatre work is a must-see…full stop.
Force Majeure and Sydney Theatre Company present
Never Did Me Any Harm
Directed by Kate Champion
Venue: Sumner Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company
Dates: 11th – 27th October 2012