Friday, 10 October 2008
Food Court , Oct 9, 2008 ****
By Back to Back Theatre
Melbourne Arts Festical
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, 9-12 Oct
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
The final scenes of Food Court have the disturbing and otherworldly quality of a Grimm’s fairytale. This is in stark contrast to the first, simple and gently amusing scenes.
Two women (Rita Halabarec, Nicki Holland) appear dressed in garish, gold leotards and engage in a banal conversation about food while a cheeky actor (Mark Deans) holds a boom microphone above their heads and another (Scott Price) helps to move their chairs.
The women start to taunt another women (Sarah Mainwaring), calling her fat, smelly and ugly. Their taunts quickly turn to abuse and ridicule. “Lose some weight”, they crow. “Learn to speak English.” But it does not stop here. They ritually humiliate her, force her to strip naked and dance for a staring crowd then beat her. It is victimisation of a terrifying and extreme kind.
The live music of The Necks provides an eerie sound scape to this narrative. The design (Mark Cuthbertson) and lighting (Andrew Livingston) heighten the sinister atmosphere. The violation of the woman occurs behind a huge scrim and actors seem to float in a ghostly moonscape with lowering trees and shadows.
Back to Back Theatre is a company with a unique voice that stems from having a cast of people with disabilities. Because some of the actors have unclear speech, all the dialogue is projected onto the screen which adds both humour and, at times, a sense of alienation.
Mainwaring’s distress is amplified when she cries out the words of Caliban, the outcast and abused servant from Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. The playfulness of the opening scenes is finally replaced by the horror of persecution.
Director, Bruce Gladwin, began devising this show from an overheard conversation but his execution of the ideas is an adventurous and challenging exploration of aggression directed toward those who are different or vulnerable.