UnderExposed presents a selection of nine new pieces of work that aim to explore the ‘types’ of people that might certainly be abhorrent or offensive but who manage to remain under the radar of public discussion. Amongst these stories include a manager’s stubbornness in dealing with her employee’s complaint of sexual assault, a man who meets his dead husband’s secret lover and is taught about the world of BDSM, and the family comedy that unravels when Shirley and Dexter (‘the most accepting people in the world’) struggle to come to terms with the fact that their daughter is dating an actual circus clown. There’s a real mix of work in this night of new writing, but like all variety nights, it’s complete with its highs and lows.
Sabina Cameron gives the strongest performance of the night as Ambrosine in the one-woman Taking the Rap by Anni Swinburn, with an engaging (albeit, slightly on-the-surface) story that talks about diversity and what we can and can’t say nowadays (whilst often saying the very things we can’t say). It’s a bit of a slow start, but once she gets into the text it becomes one of the more moving plays of the evening. Cameron also has a tendency to mumble on occasion, but this often draws us in to want to listen closely rather than pushes us away. Another memorable performance comes from Alma Reising, who provides superb comedy in For the Love of Noodles by Joe Starzyk, and works in a wonderful duo with on-stage hubby Stephen Riddle.
Coming to America (written, directed and starring Theo Hristov) is sadly dry in its writing and execution; even the background sounds of the office setting (ringing phones and background talking) seem odd given the distance between the two actors on stage. Gun Jr. Leaves Home and Pit and the Pretender are quite forgettable, unfortunately, with scripts that don’t present much punchy drama.
The Petal and the Orchid by Clare Langford and Gabrielle Curtis touches on a really important issue of addressing sexual assault cases in the workplace, but the lack of care provided by the character of Kathryn (played sternly by Cheska Hill-Wood) just seems unrealistic given the nature of the company’s work; certainly in dialogue if not also in story. Speech often feels like its being delivered by Elizabethan actors and the language seems generally unfitting to the environment, such as when Hill-Wood asks if ‘you want his dick on a chopping board’ or lists the other types of sexual assault taking place in the world; it seems shocking for the sake of shock.
Flash might get the audience on board as the finale on the night, but an audience laughing with a man (Andy McCredie) for exposing his naked self to non-consenting women in public places seems hardly appropriate or acceptable.
As a whole, the night just seems to lack much drama. In nearly every case, the stories either have slow and long build-ups rather than jumping straight to the action, or tell us how people feel about things rather than providing exciting conflict. Humour throughout often doesn’t land well and ultimately we’re promised a night of underexposed stories, but it feels like the writers are writing what they think we want to hear and see rather than what they actually want to write about at times. For a night of new writing, it doesn’t feel very fresh.
I think the aim is to present stories that are unknown to us, but most of the stories on display in this festival of plays don’t provide any new information or ask questions of its audience. The writers seem to have written stories that are already somewhat represented in the mainstream. I want something new and challenging; the work promised to push the boundaries, but rather I think it just plays for shock at times and often misses the dramatic conflict that each story is trying to explore.
Review by Joseph Winer
Preconceptions of different ‘types’ of people exist across the wide spectrum of our population and yet we mostly only question those most abhorrent and offensive. But what about those generalisations that don’t get met with immediate disdain, where the stigma does stick and which in many cases fly under the radar of what is considered unacceptable and in poor judgement?
This outing of short plays explores the underexposed theme from many perspectives, pushing the boundaries even further and presenting a diverse range of high-quality writing.
Some more serious and others more light-hearted; the vastly varying voices of the contributory writers will have you recognising, questioning and in many cases laughing out loud at the preconceptions that you never really thought you might have.
UnderExposed Theatre presents
SUNDAY, 8 JULY 2018