Theatre review: (de)construct
Watch us speak, watch us, hear us. We do, uncomfortable, though, it sometimes is, in Cera Maree Brown’s staging of her rich yet delicate play, whose title conjures the addressing of one’s multitude of selves, in order, perhaps, to define our authentic nature.
Four young people embark on a series of body movements in an expression of their unseen experiences. They lunge, writhe, spread their arms, this way, that, pluck their clothes, envelope themselves, gently then fast, nudging a toe into the ground, shuffle with force their agonising heels. You want to shout, “Stop! Go easy.” But we don’t, as they take their microphones at both ends of the stage, and we, too, settle down, released, if momentarily, from the visual anguish, to listen in to their conversations.
Working upon recorded exchanges amongst several individuals, Brown materialises their interior action into dance sequences, to capture the reality that straddles in the consciousness between emotions and behaviour. Jai Leeworthy, Lucy Pitt, Nabs Adnan, Antonia Yip Siew Pin are 20-something adults, of myriad backgrounds, anxious and occasionally desperate, clinging to their ideals in the face of an imperfect world, as they confront issues of identity and sexuality, struggling in an attempt to reconcile the conflict between desires and cultural norms, all the time longing for social acceptance, even when self-acceptance remains resolutely elusive.
In a memorable vignette, one of the immensely talented cast relates her trepidation about not being successful — the worry arising not for her own well-being, but — out of sheer reluctance to let her family down, portraying the all-too-familiar quandary between what one wants, what others want of them, and, indeed, what is ultimately good for us.
It is a powerful, undeniably intrusive, but dramatically effective piece, made only more potent by Leeworthy’s lighting design that vacillates between white starkness and an ethereal sense of reverie. Isha Ram Das’ soundscape is also extraordinary, creating atmosphere imperceptibly like the best kind of film score.
These would, of course, be superficial without the piercing honesty, pain and desolation of the transcripts, and above all the performers’ superb execution, so true and absorbed that after they have torn down their thin veils of disguise — a break-through moment following endless tumult of tripping up over their fragmented personality — you feel you can glimpse the definition of their character glistening through.