Blue Roo Theatre Company INC, known for their socially relevant productions involving actors with various disabilities, performed their latest production Darcy O and the BrowBeat Factory at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts over three performances in early September.
The audience sits and absorbs the set design as the orchestra fiddles away at stage left. The set is simple, an arch made from cardboard (boxes perhaps) that would later become a clever prop during an entertaining BrowBeat-style game-show. The costumed cast (a hint of circus, a touch of carnival perhaps) slowly and randomly trickle in and take their places, looking out at the audience; the music is atmospheric and the scene is altogether a bit chilling. What a way to start a performance!
We’re at the funeral of Darcy O’Kelly. Her proud parents (Jamie and Nikela Carrigan) look back on her achievements and recount the tale of Darcy’s famous triumph against discrimination. Flashback to Darcy (Davina Wilson) being victimised by a gang of thugs. She finds herself scared by the confrontation but when the gang clears-off she is approached by a group of mysterious people who comfort her. They are the members of the Snoop Spy Services and they let Darcy in on a not-so-little secret; the notorious BrowBeat Factory is the place where bullying is manufactured and bullies are unleashed on the community to wreak their nasty havoc.
A determined Darcy, her new friends in tow, heads to BrowBeat and takes a factory tour. She is incensed by what she finds. Mr & Mrs Browbeat and the wicked manager of the factory (the Temptress) are glowing with pride over their selection of bullies, bragging about the new range of cyber bullies now attacking social-media phenomena such as ‘Lookbook’. The BrowBeat Factory is a powerful institution that literally churns out bullies, hot off their production line. For Darcy, enough is enough. It’s time to shut-up shop.
Davina Wilson put in an outstanding performance in the title role of Darcy O’Kelly. It’s easy to imagine that Davina may well follow in the footsteps of Jamie Brewer, the Down’s Syndrome actress on television’s American Horror Story. Ben Hawton and Androulla Neophytou (Mr & Mrs Browbeat) and Lara Solomon (The Temptress) were also delightful to watch in their wicked roles. Neophytou obviously relished her inner villain, delivering her lines with aplomb – isn’t it dreadful when you want to cheer the villain on!.
Writer/Director Clark Crystal has done a wonderful job of writing to his actors’ strengths, whilst still giving them a meaty challenge to grow into. Even though the cast have various speech impediments, the subtitles provided for the benefit of the audience were not really needed as the strong performances and the universal, engaging story were easy to keep up with.
Perhaps it should be noted that the Blue Roos all have a disability of some description, if only to champion the great work that those supporting them do and to take a moment to reflect on how truly liberating theatre-making can be. This said, my partner and I had to agree that we had enjoyed this performance as much as any of the many professional theatre events that we’d attended during 2013.
Darcy O and the BrowBeat Factory is a light hearted adventure tale, full of fun but also with a deep and important underlying message of the importance of confidence, solidarity and compassion – think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory crossed with the Goonies. Complimented by the wonderful, live soundtrack composed by Elliott Thompson and Caroline Bates, this was a memorable evening of theatre for everyone.
Clarke Crystal should be thrilled by the Roos achievements with Darcy O and the BrowBeat Factory, it has really raised the bar for the Blue Roo Crew. They have grown from being people with disabilities doing a theatre performance to a theatre troupe (with disabilities) and Crystal’s strength has been in understanding the limits of disability without letting the disability be limiting.
If you get a chance to check out the Blue Roos I highly recommend it. I hear that the next production for the team is a pretty big one where they’ll be collaborating with a major Queensland Theatre Company. Keep tabs on their website for more and good on the Judith Wright Centre for supporting performance in all its diversity!