Fallout – Smoking Gum Theatre and the time after the end. (Theatre Review)
18 – 27 March, Exchange Hotel Balmian.
We have learnt to live with the promise of our unnatural demise. It’s quite phenomenological in contemporary society that there will be some current ‘scare’ that has some basis in fact, but for the most part is highly unlikely to happen. You can identify whichever is current through government rhetoric, as those seeking to curry the favour of our next vote will use the promise of alleviating fear to secure that democratic flattery. As writer of Fallout, Lauren Pearce says in the introductory notes, “We’re not allowed to live for very long until we’re taught to die.” And yet, she is careful to note, none of us do very much about these often preventable, or at the very least able to be extinguished through knowledge, inevitable crises. What makes us so addicted to the fear of an early death? What is it that makes us so susceptible to the slightest promise that a force larger than us can protect us? Most of all, what is it in us that refuses to accept responsibility and do something when it is often in our power to act?
These and other questions about our strange life that we prefer to think is constantly hanging in the balance are the issues addressed by Lauren Pearce in her play Fallout. Pearce uses a ferocious combination of pared down idiosyncratic dialogue (did anyone say Pinteresque?) and In-Yer-Face theatre tropes typical of writers like Sarah Kane and Anthony Neilson to bring an eerie, unbalanced feeling of horror to the stage as three characters trapped in a panic room examine their lives through the visit of ghosts of the people outside the shelter and a comedic lone voice that reaches them on the radio. The scenes are supported and punctuated by graphic design by Yunyin Xuan projected by Angela Toomey onto long stretches of material rags across the back of the stage, that depict 1960’s style precautionary videos that make what we now know to be ludicrous statements about how to protect oneself if an atomic bomb goes off (These include statements like “imagine the worst sunburn you can think of…” and so forth). It’s a nice touch against the horror the protagonists are experiencing that has them at the coal face of a nuclear holocaust.
It must be mentioned that Fallout is a work written by a young writer that needs to be seen in context. There is no doubt it could use some workshopping and the cast is quite uneven, engaging some under experienced actors who have to get their experience from somewhere. But it has a great deal of heart and Pearce shows a lot of promise in the way she is able to tap into some great works and re-imagine them for a contemporary stage. It’s pub theatre, dealing with complicated subject that provide a great way to get the conversation going over drinks after. There is strong stuff to grab onto, as Finn Davis provides some interesting direction, the sound and visuals are all spot on, and if the script does lack in the characterisation and conflict department, it does do some courageous and interesting things with its ghostly intrusions and Louise Harding as a tragic and yet comic lone voice crying out into the night.
Moreblessing Maturure as Ann, has a commanding presence that draws every eye to her whenever she rises to speak. She gives the play its gravitas against the dark sleazy world created by Michele Conyngham’s Samantha Radford who finds herself stuck in her panic room with her maid and her poolboy played by Jim Fishwick, who has been horribly maimed. The protagonists are visited by the ghosts of those dying in the world around them and a particular standout is Patrick Trumper who has the voice projection and strength of character missing from some of the other performances.
As I said above when the inexperienced display this sort of vision and courage, it shines through the lack of polish and easily pulls the audience on side. Fallout gets top marks for effort and top marks for a great premise fleshing out interesting ideas.