25A Slaughterhouse Romy BartzDisturbingly funny and refreshingly bold, Anchuli Felicia King’s Slaughterhouse, continues to prove why Belvoir’s 25A program is the standard for independent theatre in Sydney.

Five broadly different humans give their account of the unspeakable events that occur during a rooftop party at the offices of an ethical eating start-up. While context is key for each account, the subjects seemingly seduce, distract and plead with the audience to accept their own culpability to this horror as justified and aleatory.

It is easy for me to be jaded by the self-serving nature of theatre in this city, where practitioners often present recycled material purely for the sake of other practitioners, with little or no consideration of an audience outside of the theatre world.

King’s Slaughterhouse, does none of this. As director Benita de Wit brings together a team of inspired artists that apply a level of detail to their work, it is clear that audience experience is at the forefront of every choice.

Presented as a series of monologues interspersed with absurd anthropomorphic animal antics, the play utilises a video medium (designed by King herself) to highlight the subjective nature of each account by providing a witness and a sense of surveillance that adds layers to the tech-based world of the play and to the intimate space of Belvoir’s downstairs theatre itself.

The specificity brought to the performances by each actor is so rewarding to watch, as living gets in the way of storytelling. Be it Rayner’s familiarity with the contents of her satchel; Somerville’s unnatural caesuras caused by her phone; Marks is a spider weaving a web across the stage; Bartz holds the space captive with her dangerous deployment of sexuality wielded as a weapon; and Matthews’ sequence steals the show with an Ayahuasca trip down memory lane.

The play utilises impressive stage craft to pull off cinematic effects and makes expert use of the space. The lighting team, led by Phoebe Pilcher, delivers the play’s apotheosis with dazzling result and stage manager Bronte Schuftan calls a complex show without falter. Brendan de la Hay, the master designer, shows how to write a character’s memoir with a pant suit and a pair of boots, using only the colour yellow.

The return of de Wit to Australia is a welcome sight, since she has clearly amassed a toolbox of technique during her time in New York, and she leads her team with maturity, respect and diligence. One can only hope she is offered more reasons to stay in Sydney, to which starved audiences will attest after seeing Slaughterhouse.

Downstairs Theatre – Belvoir St Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills
Season continues to 2 November 2019
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Image: Romy Bartz – photo by Clare Hawley

Review: Adam Boys