Wednesday, 19 May 2004

DiaTribe by Angus Cerini, May 19, 2004

DiaTribe by Angus Cerini
Melbourne Workers Theatre

Next Wave Festival
  Croft Institute 21-25 Croft Alley, 19 to 29 May; The Laundry, 3 June; Revolver; The First Floor, 4 & 5 June
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 19, 2004

Melbourne Workers Theatre makes a leap into the world of hip hop artists in this play by Angus Cerini.

This is not a conventional theatre work. The main venue for two weeks is The Croft Institute, a seedy, cramped upstairs bar in a lane off Little Bourke Street. The play has sections of dialogue but is in great part is sung in hip hop style with the performers on radio microphones.

This convention works in part. The three characters are played by real local hip hop artists who clearly have a handle on the style and form. However, they are less comfortable as actors and this leaves the characters and relationships a little hollow.

The story revolves around Shannon, (Borce Markovski AKA Vulk Makedonski) a typical messed up young guy with an absent father, promiscuous mother and no prospects of any kind.

What is charming is that Shannon stays positive most of the time even as he is being condemned to death for his petty crimes and misdemeanours. Shannon represents the underdogs, workless class, indeed any underprivileged of our society. He has no control over anything that happens to him and all he wants is to find his real dad and be loved.

Enter Ace (Gina Chrisanthopolous  AKA Litle G) his upwardly mobile community lawyer who seems to be on his side but is as much of a sheister as we expect. She battles with Death, (Marlon Porter AkA Elf Tranzporter) a sleezy, Las Vegas type, is determined to take Shannon to his doom down below.

The trio travel downward in an elevator. At each level another of Shannon's lifelong screw-ups is highlighted.

We see his hopeless attempts at friendship as a child, his fantasies about his real father being a Nazi scientist, his failure in the Youth Traineeship program. Shannon is just a statistic in our social framework and no one can solve his problems.

The hip hop poetic song are a collage of urban poetic imagery and political diatribe. The language is fast, percussive, alliterative and rhyming. Hip hop's rhythmic style incorporates a stream of consciousness spoken word form that is reminiscent of scat singing and jazz jamming. It has a relentlessness that requires constant attention.

DiaTribe may not be conventional theatre but it uses language in a contemporary way and challenges theatre to assimilate a contemporary art form.

LOOK FOR: The references to current political issues.

By Kate Herbert

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