There are only two types of people in this world – those who have been to war, and those who haven’t… excerpt from ‘Bare Witness’
Queensland Theatre Company just finished their Indie Greenhouse Season with the extraordinary Mari Lourey play Bare Witness last week, which I was privileged to ‘witness’ the closing night. Although a review is redundant in advising Queenslanders whether to see the show or not, the play which received the 2005 RE Ross Trust Script Development Award and was shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award in 2008, merits acknowledgement. Bare Witness will also continue their Australian tour with its Melbourne leg starting this week.
Upon first reading the promo material about a play from a combat journalist’s point of view, it didn’t appeal greatly to my sense of escapism and a fun night at the theatre. But not all theatre is about that. Theatre is also a chance to vicariously explore different parts of the world, and other people’s lives – some dangerous – from the comfort of a theatre chair. Some theatre provokes thought about parts of the world – horrendous parts – that don’t even come across your radar. And some theatre challenges the very convention of what theatre is. This is one of those plays.
Bare Witness, inspired by real events, is an intelligent, poetic, intense piece of physical theatre. It is obvious that a lot of love and attention has gone into the construction of the story, piecing together fragmented vignettes – photograph by photograph.
Through the eyes of a young Australian woman, Dannie Hills (played by Daniela Farinacci), we follow her journey from rookie photographer in Sarajevo as she sets out to ‘capture the perfect image’. Meaning, morality, and authenticity come into question as she learns the ropes from a rat pack of war photojournalists on assignment in East Timor and Iraq. “You manipulated the image!”
Director Nadja Kostich, drew from all aspects of multi-media to realise this poetry-in-motion piece; including projected images (video design by Michael Carmody); a live musician, (Kristin Rule), who composed a cello soundscape that was eerie and atmospheric; a wall of lights (lighting design by Emma Valente), and hand-held lights that the actors used to intrude on their photojournalistic subjects.
While the production elements richly enhanced the world in which the characters lived and were welcomingly more in the foreground than a traditional theatre production, they did not detract from the real feature which was the character based narrative lead by a hard-core ensemble cast: Daniela Farinacci, Eugenia Gragos, Adam McConvell, Ray Chong Nee and Todd MacDonald. From the scattered corners of the globe, each fully realised character had their own war-torn story to tell, which at various points collided with the other photojournalists. And each stand-out actor was engrossing to watch as they bravely engaged in the intense physical life of the play. It was also lovely to see Todd MacDonald to come out from behind the QTC Associate Director’s chair to tread the boards again.
Bare Witness is a gripping piece of theatre – intense in subject matter, penetrating in execution. Go see it if you can.
Portland Arts Centre 23 October
The Capital, Bendigo 25 October
Colac Otway Performing Arts and Cultural Centre 27 October
Geelong Performing Arts Centre 30 October – 3 November
The Street Theatre, Canberra 6 – 10 November
West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul 13 November
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat 15 November
Mildura Arts Centre 17 November
Theatre Royal, Hobart 21 – 22 November