“Its nice to be read to” says an encouraging teacher, Mrs. Petchell, to her student, Tamara, a wannabee author of children’s books. Still really a child herself, the teen Tamara would rather tell than show, and it's her telling that's the engine of Silent Disco.
Lachlan Philpott's lauded play is decidedly lyrical, but with the absence of action becomes homiletic, a little too much tell and not enough show.
Tamara's tale of two timing a pair of brothers and her unhappy home life with her wife abandoned father is not exactly transfixing. She tells of the emotional tundra rather than treks it.
Silent Disco is big on description rather than depiction, delivering introspective lectures, especially from Tamara, who tends to think of herself in the third person, a detachment, I suppose, from her boring and bored real world. This inner analyses of motive and sensation draws Silent Disco into a slow dance that rarely flares into the narrative equivalent of flailing arms and legs and orgasmic overbite.
Hats off, however, to Gemma Scoble for climbing the gab fest Everest of Tamara. Her performance fizzes with teenage petulance, impudence and impulsiveness. Pity she can't smoke. Best ban smoking altogether from the theatre than let a thespian choke on phony herbal fags.
There's good support from Natasha McNamara in a return to the stage after sixteen years. She is a triple treat as Tamara's checkout chick chum, Dezzie, her estranged mum, Leanne and the boy's Aunty.
The rest of the cast is serviceable in their silhouette/cypher characters – Badaidilaga Muftuh-Flynn as Tamara's cast off callow bed fellow, Squid, Tom Misa as his brother, Dane, Leilani Loau as Mrs. Petchell, the teacher, and Brendan Miles as Tamara's distant and diseased dad, Laurence.
Ester Karuso-Thurn's set and costume design is effectively simple with a centre stage stark fluro lit box simulating a classroom, while Liam O'Keefe's lighting is at its evocative best in the scene that gives the play its title.
Silent Disco will rake the coals of recognition with teachers and teenage students, sure, a recital of pubescent obsessions and observations, but, as nice as it is to be read to, in the theatre it can be glacial.
New Theatre presents
by Lachlan Philpott
Director Johann Walraven
Venue: New Theatre | 542 King Street, Newtown NSW
Dates: 22 March – 14 April 2018
Tickets: $35 – $30