Image for THEATRE: Strange Attractor

THEATRE: Strange Attractor

Written by Adam Moussa on November 4, 2009

STRANGE ATTRACTOR
Written by Sue Smith
Directed by Nick MarchandStage
Design by Jo Briscoe
Lighting Design by Bernie
Tan Composer / Sound Design by Steve Francis
Starring: Blazey Best, Ivan Donato, Darren Gilshenan, Peter Kowitz, Josh McConville and Sandy Winton

Are Australians an unhappy people? Quick response is no, but significant chunks of our film and theatre works would say argue otherwise. Delving into national identity on a personal level, there is so much in Strange Attractor to evoke déjà vu. There are shades of Andrew Bovell’s heady drama in the play, without the complex webs and subtle revelations found in his film Lantana and play When the Rain Stops Falling. The similarity is in the depiction of the fallout – the character reactions to a horrific event, either in the distant or immediate past. This entails anger, sadness, claustrophobia and guilt – above all, guilt. These conventions pervade contemporary Australian drama and now begin to draw fire, labelled ‘wrist-slashers’. Rachel Ward’s recent film Beautiful Kate drew the very same criticism, despite heapings of praise and positive reviews. So, in the Australian tradition, Strange Attractor is dark and guilt-ridden. However, like all of pieces mentioned above, it’s the tradition done right, which makes it fascinating and watchable.

It wouldn’t feel right without an outback setting, thus the focus is on railway workers in Western Australia. There are four of them, plus a server (well, barman), working lengthy shifts at a time, paid handsomely but far away from their families. Their tragic event is the death of a co-worker in a storm. Of course his death circumstance was a little mysterious. Cue intrigue, guilt and disquiet. Cue introduction of Colin (Darren Gilshenan), the corporate outsider who plies each individual character with questions to deduce the reality of the mishap. The single act unfolds over an hour and a half with overlapping time shifts between the present, after the death and the past, leading up to it. Initially it catches you off guard, but the disorientation is momentary. What follows is a rich exposition of the realistically-drawn characters, exploring the usual Australian ideas – namely mateship, guilt (yes, more of it) and finding where we fit in the world – the life of a self-aggrandizing little fish in a big pond. Subtlety is key; playwright Sue Smith is careful not to badger the audience with explicit didactic lessons, affording the play a look at mateship without it degenerating into a nauseating string of “we’re mates”, “I thought we were mates”, “that’s what mates do”, etc.

The action all revolves around the simple (and perhaps excessively plain) bar set (yet another passionately Australian ideal) and director Nick Marchand has made great use of the Stables Theatre space, keeping action constrained. The entire cast gives a stellar performance, emotional and resounding, and only occasionally feeling over the top. Audience attention will not wander thanks to a smooth flow of dialogue, which is often darkly humorous. The backdrop of the GFC and shifting superpowers services the play nicely – there could be no more perfect mode of exploring China’s burgeoning influence than through a mining scenario.

Strange Attractor is a beautiful play. It won’t shock and won’t challenge but it will enthrall you. It’s sad and it’s guilty, but the bleakness is brought to life very well by Griffin and this attractor makes for great theatre!

You will love it if: you’re tired of namby pamby nationalism and want to see a little less sheen on the Australian identity.
You will hate it if: you’ve had your fill of guilt, blame and the red centre.

Strange Attractor is playing at Griffin Theatre Company, Stables Theatre Nimrod St, Kings Cross until November 21st

Join Music Feeds on Facebook

More On Music Feeds

News

The Vaccines Frontman Is Frustrated People Can’t See How Good He Is At Writing Songs

The Vaccines lead-singer and songwriter Justin Young has gone on a pretty spectacular rant this week about his under-appreciated songwriting, his band’s popularity and Glastonbury headliners.

News

Someone Has Replaced The Snare In Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’ With The Shittier One From ‘St. Anger’

Lars Ulrich’s snare sound on Metallica’s divisive St. Anger album has become a music industry punchline, mocked and memed en masse by even the most devout of Metallica fans, since the offensive album was first released in 2003.

News

Watch Primavera Sound Festival Live From The Comfort Of Your Couch This Weekend

Thanks to the internet you can basically pretend you’re in Barcelona at Primavera Sound this weekend, with many of the sets being streamed.

News

A$AP Ferg Has Made A Mini-Doco Of His Mental Australian Tour

Trap lord A$AP Ferg has released a short film of his recent trip to Australia showing just how HAM Aussie crowds went for the rapper.

News

Paul Mac, Art Vs. Science Support NSW Greens Bill To Stop Use Of Sniffer Dogs

NSW Greens member Jenny Leong has announced that she will introduce a bill to NSW parliament which, if passed, will stop police being able to use sniffer dogs without a warrant at festivals, in bars and King Cross and on public transport.

News

Fear Factory Dish On New Album ‘Genexus’

Fear Factory have released the tracklist and cover art for their forthcoming ninth studio album and given away a few hints on what to expect.

Around the web

This May Also Interest You