BU21 @ Old 505 Theatre Review

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Jeremy Waters. Remember this name and go see everything he does.

I've seen 'Jez' twice onstage and both times were mesmerising. Firstly in 'Harvest', a dark tale down't Yorkshire farm across a century of where Waters pulled off a 'Benjamin Button'-like transformation across his character's 100 years journey. And next in 'Bondi Dreaming', presented at the time of the impending Bali 9 executions. Stage productions can be hit or miss. With Jeremy Waters, quite simply, it's always hit.

So with such a midas touch, what's a thespian to do? Spread the love. And indeed this is what is happening with Outhouse Theatre Company (Jeremy's brainchild with fellow Australian NYC-based Nick Stevenson) and their most recent production of 'BU21' by Bristolian Stuart Slade. 'BU21' tells the fictional story of a Transatlantic flight getting shot down over a posh part of London by terrorists with a dodgily acquired rocket launcher deployed out of the back of a van. And then to the all important question which the theatre asks best: "What then?"

How does a city and its people respond to such an attack? In the unfamiliar horror visited by a big city not used to such events, its citizens' responses are revealing, hilarious and ultimately human. The real power of sound design, here masterfully delivered by Sydney Theatre Company regular Nate Edmonson, is to the fore in this production.

When we see playbacks on CCTV or handicam of terrorist attacks, the fidelity is never quite there for obvious reasons. But the 'true violence' of the surround sound depicting the plane crashing was so immersive, you could feel the chaos and evil taking over in such a moment. The feeling that this is it, nobody can save you.

Good theatre reveals ourselves to ourselves. I'm not sure if it's because I too may have a total bastard inside waiting to get out or what, but the show stealing performance came from straight outta Perth's (via 3 years in NIDA) Skyler Ellis's portrayal of total banker wanker Alex. Absolutely hilarious. While other characters told their story to us, Alex broke the 'fifth' wall as it were, and spoke directly to us.

The delivery of the performances are mostly monologue based. Although with Erin Taylor's wonderfully directed key moments of reactions from the rest of the cast which made it feel like an ensemble piece. Another standout performance came from Sydney's Jessica Belle Keogh's wheelchair-bound Ana. Mastering an Eastern European accent and taking us on this character's story of being horribly burned, a break up with a partner, a loss of reason to live and ultimately a resolve to go on somehow was particularly moving.

If the play was missing anything it was the complete absence of asking why. Why would someone carry out such an attack? The sad reality of the human condition is that the response to such an event can be to redouble war efforts overseas and far away, build walls, spin the circle of violence, and keep selling the arms to wherever, and the twain never meeting until another terrorist attacks break the silence again.

Great performances, beautifully staged and directed. I look forward to future Outhouse Theatre Company productions from Waters et al.

2018 AIR Awards Nominees Playlist


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