45DS Sneakyville - photo by Sarah WalkerWhether or not the ‘Summer of Love’ was an aberration or part of a larger countercultural surge, the innocence and optimism of the 1960s came to a brutal end at 10050 Cielo Drive.

At that address in Los Angeles, four members of the so-called “Manson Family” murdered five people at the behest of Charles Manson. Indeed, Manson stands literally in the middle of Sneakyville – not appearing until the midway point – with the play’s devastation revolving around him.

The play casts a wide net across a lot of years. Exploration and exposition are woven together as the show explores the magnetism of Manson, and how the journey from commune to cult to myth to other impresses itself upon the modern world.

As the ensemble shift around the space in their prison whites, they arrive fully formed – disciples of Charles Manson. Set in traverse, the play offers up each side of the audience as part of the backdrop for the other, anonymous faces sitting in some kind of judgement.

The ensemble – Grace Travaglia, Wil King, Patrick Durnan Silva, Kristina Benton, Julia Christensen – all equipped themselves splendidly, with performances that were sometimes terrifying but always compelling. The faux-character breaking where the technician calls out the actors by name and hands them their scripts didn’t quite work, but admittedly provided a welcomed break in tone.

Director, Daniel Lammin, hasn’t directed a comfortable show: The Dexter-ish plastic curtains pulled across the space obscure our view; we twist our heads often to watch the actors while also trying to see what’s being projected at the other end of the space.

And it shouldn’t be comfortable, either. Neither is it gratuitous. It would be easy to go for shock, but in giving us uneasy moments of dark and light, Sneakyville proves to be a more rewarding destination.

fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 2 August 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 11 August 2018
Information and Bookings:

Image: Grace Travaglia, Julia Christensen and Patrick Durnan Silva feature in Sneakyville – photo by Sarah Walker

Review: David Collins