Jessica Paterson, Shalom Brune-Franklin, Brittany Morel in Girl Shut Your Mouth. Image by Daniel James Grant
Opening night is an integral opportunity for a company to make an impression on an audience, setting the tone for both the current season and year ahead. The fact that the State Theatre Company that represents WA, Black Swan, constantly choose a cover band for such occasions, serves to perfectly illuminate why they are, in simple terms, in big trouble.
Perth is one of the world’s most isolated capital cities, and the majority of companies are industrious and use multiple investigative techniques to stay in line with the rest of the world and the competition.
Black Swan does the opposite. They like what they do, who they are and what they have done and the formula continues. Arts funding issues aside, the very nature of a creative team and company should be a curious one. Now in its milestone 25th year, and the 2016 program showing a glimmer of inquisitiveness and understanding of the outside world and what is being done, hopefully 2017 and the years beyond will become inclusive and innovative rather than repetitive and conservative.
LOADED: A Double Bill of New Plays is a Black Swan Lab Production featuring new acting graduates from WAAPA and fresh faced new Playwrights and Directors. This is a wonderful Black Swan initiative, and do not mistake the criticism above to be directed against developing local talent, as it is of course an incredibly rewarding and important process - but my utmost hope is that I see these actors/directors/creatives etc in another Black Swan production in 10 years not 10 months, and that the lure of comfort and back slapping is not so addictive that it stunts the constant growth and development that every remarkable career requires.
Girl Shut Your Mouth by Gita Bezard is a story of 4 school girls who 'faced their end' and lived to tell the tale. The main character is completely unlikeable and even without the bravado and bluster put up as a protective shield, one can only imagine she would be a shell of a teenager. This play revolves around a school shooting, but attempts to encompass women’s trials and fights for equality through the ages, so one is never sure if we are in Syria or the schoolyard.
The message is noble but garbled as the dialogue choices were obvious and lacked the subtleties and discernment that could have made this piece more powerful.
Will O’Mahony on the other hand has handled similar subject matter with a lighter touch. The escapades of Tonsils + Tweezers are vividly portrayed through witty repartee, and although the visual, sound and lighting effects are much the same across both plays, here they are used less for shock value but clever effect. The character of Tonsils’ confidence doesn’t smack of arrogance, but rather cheeky loveable rogue – which makes an audience sit up, take notice and care about where his future and the story are going. Dialogue is sharp and amusing, the moral of the story is left to resonate with the watchers and the subject is dealt with in the respectful and sensitive manner, which Girl Shut Your Mouth lacked in spades.
Loaded presents current affairs issues in a tried and tested manner, but a discerning audience would prefer that Loaded presented current affairs or new topics in an untried and untested manner.
“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners in it,” Rick Warren.
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Black Swan State Theatre Company Presents
A Black Swan Lab Production
14th Jan – 17th Feb
STUDIO UNDERGROUND. State Theatre Centre of WA