Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Theatre: The Modern International Dead

Deckchair Theatre
Written by Damien Millar
Directed by Chris Bendall
Featuring Steve Turner, Michelle Fornasier and Stuart Halusz
Victoria Hall, Fremantle
March 17  - April 2, 2011

Steve Turner and Michelle Fornasier
We woke the morning after the opening of Deckchair Theatre’s production of Damien Millar’s The Modern International Dead to yet another country in flames. Like Somalia, like Kosovo, Iraq, Cambodia, Rwanda and East Timor before it, Libya joins the nightmare list of countries whose people endure torture and execution, disease and starvation, incursion and insurgency, ethnic violence and the deadly infection of the minefield. They are the modern international dead of the play’s very apt title.
Miller’s play centres on the stories of three Australians dealing with these seemingly endless agonies. 
The closer the play stayed to the real stories of real people plainly told, the more effective it was. Two monologues describing the terrible consequences of a land mine explosion in Cambodia and a car hijacking in Somalia were its emotional and dramatic high points. 
During these scenes, and in others where the characters bore plain, direct witness to actual events, the production had a similar impact to the powerful and illuminating Aftermath, recently seen at the Perth Festival.
The Modern International Dead isn’t everything it could be, but it still deserves praise for bringing a terrible darkness to the light, and for a performance from Steve Turner that alone is worth the price of admission.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Footnote: I’ve had a brief email exchange with Chris Bendall about the extent to which Damien Millar is transcribing stories told to him, especially the Somalia carjacking story told by the Rod Barton character in the play, which relates to some of my comments in the full review in The West.
 Bendall tells me that, while that story is not a transcription, “the incident, reactions and actions are all factual”.
“The same incident is described in the book
Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures). In Damien’s interviews apparently Rod spoke of the story but not nearly to the same length, so Damien has re-constructed (it) using his voice. 

“I guess the interesting thing about the play is it feels like verbatim theatre, and nothing is made up so it's all based on the extensive interviews Damien conducted, but he has gotten inside the voices of each of the actual people and recrafted their words for dramatic purposes –which is why he uses the tag ‘witness theatre’ more than ‘verbatim”, Bendall says.   

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