Photos – Pia Johnson
I Am A Miracle is the latest work from young Melbourne writer Declan Greene. My short review? Wow. Epic. Dreamlike. Nightmarish. Disturbing. Confronting. Thrilling. Biblical. Poetic. Perfect theatre. Go see it.
Oh how I'd like to leave it at that. However I suspect a few more words and thoughts are expected, probably with some of that syntax stuff involved. Oh well, here goes...
There are three stories being told here. There's the story of a 18th century Dutch boy who grows up, joins the armed forces and sails away to the colonies to help quash a slave rebellion. There is the story of a contemporary city dweller and his clash with his carer as his mental deterioration worsens. Both of these stories are book-ended, in a way, by the true story of Marvin Lee Wilson who spent 18 years on death row before being executed for his life of crime. It was revealed that his low IQ should have seen him avoid the death penalty; alas, it did not.
This very ambitious production draws you in from the start with its powerful story-telling and at times glitteringly poetic text. The acting is masterful. The set design and sound production are nothing short of stunning. There's a kind of harrowing beauty going on here – especially towards the end – coming at you from all directions.
Bert LaBonte opens the show with a kind of countdown to the hour of execution of Marvin, as he offers a futile list of unfinished promises to do something, of futile hope that some last minute thing will happen to prevent this imminent death. There is an argument, of sorts, between the three figures on stage, and the situation does indeed seem futile; there is a reason these Angels Of Justice are wearing prisoner overalls.
This gives way to Milita Jurisic's wonderful monologue of the life story of our Dutch soldier. Surprisingly funny on occasion, it grips and manages to be incredibly evocative of the bloody hardship suffered by the invading Westerners and the slaves alike. The whimsical intro of our hero's journey gives way to brutal reality, ending on a note of yearning. Jirisic takes on several characters, and armed with such excellent text she drags us through the gamut of emotions with aplomb. It's a bit of a bravo performance.
LaBonte takes centre stage in the next story, a very modern, domestic drama. Again, there are unexpected laughs, but the mood here quickly darkens. Nothing whimsical here. This is confronting and raw and so sadly real. LaBonte and Jirisic as the combatants make you feel for both of them and the situation they are so tragically locked into.
There is a third cast member, Hannah Le Crisp. She frequently adds to the ethereal feel of the production with her soaring operatic vocals. Gorgeous stuff. A lot of thought has been given to the sound production, and it works like the best soundtrack of your favourite movie.
The play closes, back to that countdown, back to the futility, back to those prisoner angels and talk of God and justice, back further and further... can't remember the last time I felt (you don't just see it, you feel it) such an epic and thought-provoking close to a play. Serious kudos to director Matthew Lutton.
It takes a while to unravel just exactly what you've seen here, just what connects these three stories. It stays with you, this play.
Malthouse Theatre presents
I Am A Miracle
by Declan Greene
Director Matthew Lutton
Venue: Merlyn Theatre | The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank VIC
Dates: 18 Jul – 9 Aug 2015
Tickets: $30 – $60