Photo – Jeff Busby
As we are led into the bowels of Hamer Hall to squeeze into an inflatable airlock and put on headphones, from the outset we know this will be the kind of subversive, experimental production that we’ve come to expect from Geelong-based Back to Back Theatre – a globally famous company of actors with and without a disability.
Out of the darkness comes god (Scott Price), who is grumpy, impetuous and has a massive chip on his shoulder. As he gets Adam and Eve (Mark Deans and Sarah Mainwaring) to name all the different animals, his unidentified mentor (Brian Lipson) has a surreal conversation with his partner about bringing home milk and the new cutlery she doesn't like. He wills god to euthanise him, god complies and his mock death is drawn out and comical.
From this bizarre take on the creation myth, god pinches the black skin of the bubble we’re sitting under and pulls it away spectacularly, revealing a white skin underneath. In this intermediary, darkness-before-the-beginning-of-time section, shadows shuffle around at the back of the stage to an ambient guitar soundscape. Running for at least ten minutes, this limbo starts to drag and the show loses its momentum.
But as the “sky” begins to lighten, the white skin is pulled away for a striking reveal and scenery change. The actors become cleaners who are having a hierarchal tussle with their supervisor, contrasting the metaphysical with the mundane. They are such a long way away from the audience but we hear their dialogue so crisply through the headphones it’s as if they’re sitting right behind us – like we are ourselves god looking down on these subjects.
As an audience, the ensemble asks us to “create our own myth, like humans do”. It touches on the machinations of power and hierarchy and considers the relationship between disability and spirituality.
Whether you quite understand it or not, Lady Eats Apple is an epic force unto itself, imbued with surrealism, humour and eeriness, as well as successfully harnessing an ambitious use of technology.
2016 Melbourne Festival
Lady Eats Apple
Back To Back Theatre
Director Bruce Gladwin
Venue: Hamer Hall | Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Dates: 8 – 13 October 2016
Tickets: $79 – $69