Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Beached, MTC Education, April 23, 2013 **1/2

By Melissa Bubnic
Melbourne Theatre Company, Education Program
The Lawler, MTC Southbank, April 23 to May 10, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 23 
Stars: **1/2
Review published in Herald Sun online on May 1, 2013 and probably later in print. KH

Reality television can be a cruel and manipulative process that is more interested in sensationalising its subjects’ problems than solving them.

Melissa Bubnic’s play, Beached, reveals the nastier aspects of a fictional, weight-loss reality television series called Shocking Fat Stories.

The program, shaped and edited by its ambitious, uncaring producer (Anthony Ahern), follows bedridden, 400 kg, 18 year-old Arty (Damien Sunners), who must shed a massive amount of weight before he can have life-saving lap band surgery.

The play is part of the MTC Education program, but its style, content and level seem best suited to lower secondary rather than VCE audiences, because characters remain caricatures, the story is shallow, and issues are never penetrated to any sophisticated level.

The form overwhelms the content with video projections and live filming that replicate the style of reality TV, and some awkwardly placed animation depicting Arty’s romantic fantasies of being an explorer.

One of the highlights is Susie Dee’s detailed, funny and finally poignant performance as JoJo, Arty’s resentful, bogan mother, who was her ballooning son’s Feeder until the TV studio sold her the notion of celebrity and cash in exchange for a live feed of their lives.

Sunners finds some simple warmth and naiveté as Arty, Fanny Hanusin is amusing as Louise, Arty’s repressed motivator, and Ahern creates multiple, comical, weight-loss protagonists for the camera.

The production, directed by Petra Kalive, is fast-paced, tailored for a young audience with a short attention span and accustomed to ad breaks, tweets and Youtube clips.

However, the play is ultimately unsatisfying, never really challenging reality TV, but rather parodying it with characters and gags that lend themselves to a tight 40 comedy, rather than an 80-minute play.

By Kate Herbert

Anthony Ahern (Producer)
Susie Dee (JoJo)
Fanny Hanusin (Louise)
Damien Sunners (Arty)

Creative Team
Director Petra Kalive
Set Designer Andrew Bailey
Costume Designer Kat Chan
Lighting Designer Lisa Mibus
Sound Designer Robert Jordan
Animator Rebecca Hayes

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