Theatre review: WAKE

La Mama Theatre has always been a personal favourite of mine. For over fifty years La Mama has been an institution of Melbourne independent theatre-making, producing a diverse range of shows right in the heart of Carlton.

Last night I saw WAKE, written and directed by Ben Anderson. The work forms part of La Mama’s exploration season that invites artists to explore boundaries and take risks with creative ideas. WAKE is a bunraku-style puppetry and visual theatre show that explores the life of a conspiracy theorist. The puppets were quite beautiful and their handlers multi-skilled sliding from puppeteers, to actors to singers.

The story opens on a stormy sea with gulls, fish and a man in a boat swishing around to beautiful harmonies that presented a stunning opening image. However, the story soon turned dark. There is a lot in this show that is at times both visually beautiful and funny, but at it’s essence the story is about a boy trying to understand his absent father – a man who appeared to suffer from a serious mental illness that caused him to be both highly intelligent and experience delusions.

Please note, the show does come with a trigger warning as there are references to suicide.

WAKE only runs until Wednesday 30th November. If you can’t make it to WAKE there is plenty more on offer at La Mama, so plan a visit.

Theatre review: Yellingbo by Tee O’Neill

It’s just over twenty years since the Tampa affair, when the Howard government changed Australia’s treatment of refugees from a welcoming stance to offshore processing and detention. It was a strategy to dissuade people smugglers they said. Since that time thousands of people fleeing persecution in their home countries have been locked up by successive Australian governments, often left languishing indefinitely. It is topic debated at protests and dinner parties alike. In Yellingbo Tee O’Neill brings the issue literally into the lounge room in her ingeniously crafted play running at La Mama in Carlton until 20th March.

Loving couple Danny (Jeremy Stanford) and Kaye (Fiona Macleod) live an ordinary life in the suburbs until Danny’s old girlfriend Cat (Jude Beaumont) turns up unexpectedly after having been out of contact overseas for many years. It appears we are about to become enmeshed in an awkward love triangle.

Cat’s arrival triggers an unravelling of secrets and baring of scars that will change three lives forever. Once exposed, secrets cannot be rewound. They test our trust in one another, challenge our values and can reveal whether our rhetoric is true to our behaviour.

Yellingbo is multilayered and impassioned. The lives of the three characters on stage are interwoven and bound, yet fragile. O’Neill balances the emotional tension that ripples across the stage with the relief of dark wit perfectly.

How generous are we really toward people seeking asylum? If confronted with this dilemma in your personal life – literally in your living room – a choice to help, or not – how would you respond?

I was riveted from start to finish.