Australian Realness

MHT Australian Realness Emily Goddard & Chanella Macri - photo by Pia JohnsonIs there such a thing as Situation Horror? Australian Realness is a theatrical palate-cleanser, a David Lynch-style sorbet – oh so unsettling, but oh so refreshing.

From its domestic neo-nostalgia that looks forwards as it casts back, is drawn scathing indictments of present-day middle-class Australia, haunting images, and a hilarious and charming family Christmas gleaned through an ever-distorting “true blue” lens.

Zoey Dawson’s script takes her trope characters on a floating trope set and breaks them down in thrilling fashion. It’s Inland Empire by way of 90s Melbourne, a revenge fantasy that doesn’t let you off the hook just because it’s making you laugh. In some ways, making the audience laugh digs the hook in deeper.

Romanie Harper’s set sits like a curious diorama when you first get in the large Merlyn Theatre space, the very picture of middle-incomed Xmas bliss. The reasons for all the negative space surrounding the action reveals itself later, but for now the family are settling for Christmas.

There are slivers of darkness among the festivities, however, but nothing too surprising until the first burst of canned laughter and things start to tilt resembling more an episode of Sapphire and Steel.

Linda Cropper was electric, playing both ends of the socio-economic spectrum (and in-between) with power and presence. Greg Stone did lovely work in evoking Darryl Kerrigan and a first act Mick Taylor, reducing the distance between them as the play progressed, André de Vanny did 80s son, down or entitled, very well.

Chanella Macri was tremendous, whether outward as the driven union leader, or inward as the art critic or on film. The show tracks Emily Goddard’s character, singular. While her world is literally torn way and out of her, her identity remains and her journey through the latter parts of the play were extraordinary.

It’s a strange feeling for show to frighten yet delight, to condemn in a way but also thoroughly entertain. Director Janice Muller has done exquisite work with a wonderful script and cast. Like staggering in on a film of yourself, Australian Realness may disturb, but it will linger in only the best way.

Australian Realness
Merlyn Theatre – The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Performance: Wednesday 21 August 2019 – 7.30pm
Season continue to 8 September 2019
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Image: Emily Goddard and Chanella Macri in Australian Realness – photo by Pia Johnson

Review: David Collins