Bryony Lavery’s ILLYRIA: Not a foreign country…
Media is peppered with it constantly. Journalists in flak jackets and helmets reporting in from war torn countries are a constant reminder of the turmoil and atrocity across the world at any given time. Crossing the border into ILLYRIA last September I and the rest of the audience at the Hayman Theatre at Curtin University were exposed in a much more visceral and challenging way to the vicissitudes of war.
Seated precariously close in the first row, I didn’t realise I would have to hand over my passport, that I would feel, all at once, like a trespasser, a victim, and a perpetrator.
Perhaps I was already vulnerable in some way that night but the trauma of war and dispossession, struggle and disempowerment slipped right past my private guards: In the small auditorium, and so close to the stage, the young and fiercely talented troupe of actors created a taut and powerful dissonance and disturbance on stage and within.
Scenes that linger especially (and there are many, some I do not want to give away) are the spectral suitcases packed heel to toe with torture. Shoes laid out in the crescent of a vanishing moon suggesting excess, engorgement, and self loss. When ‘Madame’ (red hair, red lips, red shoes) clicked her heels we were transported (shackled to our own capitalistic consumerism and desires?). We became Hans Christian Andersen’s Karen disempowered and dancing in a sinister dystopian tale. We wondered how the blood oozing out across the stage could ever be washed away. Could this raw and real (but also existential and personal) wound be gauzed? The ending…well, I will let you decide what the resolution to the revolution conjures and requires...
ILLYRIA is at times certainly confronting. Through the eyes of a journalist in a foreign country, it explores the trauma of war, misogyny, ignorance, brutality, how, in the end, we are all somehow foreign and easily vanquished. The subject matter is powerful and thought provoking enough (engaging both the global and personal) but the play is lifted further in effective counterpoint by the haunting choreography and inspired design. Indeed, while I found ILLYRIA at times overwhelming, its moving lyricism, deep symbolism and poetry gave the work true and lasting pathos, all characteristics, for me, of an excellent theatre experience. Each act of violence (murder, torture, rape and sex) is cleverly translated through energetic and committed acting and beautifully executed body movement, the employment of sinew and bone (as if releasing the muscle memory of innumerable victims), the grace of their bodies as they fall dead, or violated, or maimed, or dismembered, acting as a pivot upon which, for the next hour or so, the audience turns.
The exciting news is that this production of Bryony Lavery’s ILLYRIA, as directed by Teresa Izzard and created collaboratively with the Ensemble from the Hayman Theatre Company, is being remounted as part of the Fringe World Festival.
So if you missed ILLYRIA in September last year, you have the chance to see it again at the Hayman Theatre at Curtin University on the 28th January. It’s wonderful to know that this quality production is about to have a second season.
Do not miss it.
Free ILLYRIAN Festival at 6.15 for a 7 pm start 28-31st Jan. Feb 1st 2014
For bookings: fringeworld.com.au