Drill Hall Theatre on a Friday night for the official opening of SHIT, a play by one of Australia’s best playwrights, Patricia Cornelius. There. I’ve said it. Opening paragraph and Patricia Cornelius is a brilliant playwright: I salute her on so many levels.
How to review this play? How do I do it justice? How will my words evaluate what I have just witnessed and give fitting praise to the playwright, the actors and the director (Georgia Martin, take a bow, and Marcus O’Mullane, assistant director, well done). And all the crew who can bring such a powerhouse of a play to a local theatre, exposing us all to contemporary confrontation on so many platforms? Employing a minimal cast and set, garnering maximum momentum from the first words uttered, SHIT is cutting-edge theatre – succinct, provocative, evocative, packing a punch from the moment the three actors set foot upon the stage.
Sam (Claire Atkins), Billy (Kate Foster) and Bobby (Kate Horsley) burst onto this well-imagined set, menacing and milling around, in a cacophony of gutter-speak. This is the language of the disenfranchised, sorting their situation out, through liberal use of every swear word and tough-rough stance imaginable (and they have wicked imaginations!). With body language filling in the gaps (no gaps here, move away NOW!) the momentum builds, the angst heightens and the stories within stories unfold. How can such women, from such spare backgrounds, traverse any other life than the one earmarked for them from birth? Cornelius knows the human condition only too well, with contemporary issues dealt with (and not dealt with) in front of our very eyes. Wow. The audience responded accordingly, laughing at the string of cusses and curses, from the go-get, where the scene is set and no way of backing down now… let the fucks fly and land at the feet of everyone – this is the ONLY way to get this point across and it is brilliant. The comedy within tragedy is palpable and the "no swear challenge” at the onset is an air-clearer. Laugh? Oh yeah.
Vignettes, innuendo, stories unfolding to the “boo hoo, never mind” and powerful performances by each ‘lady’ in the cast. Claire Atkins, Kate Foster and Kate Horsley are totally convincing, from every strut and stance they conjure. I know you, don’t I? We were at school together, surely – I was afraid of you, avoided you and got slammed by you. Nature or nurture – without love I guess it doesn’t matter either way. These ‘ladies’ take us on a trip through their lives... how did they get to where they are now? The language and the turn-of-phrase we all grew (and still growing) up with – these are our coevals. These are the people that make us disembark public transport earlier than our stop, because of their menacing embrace. And yet, how/why did they grow into this? Patricia, you know, don’t you? A reason behind everything and the language of the lost (lost child, lost cause, lost youth, lost love). So many losses and inevitability. Moments shared on stage, by actors who channelled the essence of toughness, totally believable and heartfelt – convincing in so many ways. I am in awe, truly.
The set is a quintessential element and is as minimalistic as the cast and crew, and yet, perfect. Ditto sound, lighting and choreographed movement, succinct and ‘revelationary’. The wish lists, the wanting of stuff they know they will never have, the dynamic between these three women, struggle-city at best and loneliness/alienation at worse case scenario. A problem of our times, and if the disparity between human-kind ramps up, the disenfranchised become legion.
Everyone has different takes on any given situation, but this play speaks to the heart and soul of female identity and ‘our place upon this planet’ issues. I left the theatre pumped, inspired and mentally erect – now THAT, I said to my partner, is THEATRE at its best.
Drill Hall Theatre Company presents
by Patricia Cornelius
Director Georgia Martin
Venue: Drill Hall Theatre | 4 Jubilee Ave, Mullumbimby Northern NSW
Dates: 10 – 25 May 2019
Tickets: $25 – $22