NEON’s Twin is the first of Arthur’s The Myth Project series that’s about exploring the Australian psyche and the myths it creates. Exploding in a shiny-streamer world that moves from a cabaret-noir-cum-disco underworld to a bleak country pub that hides a secret, it’s the second show opening this week where an established company is working with high school students.
Arthur is director Paige Rattray and producer Belinda Kelly. They work with a group of collaborators and for this project the group includes 32 year 11 and 12 students from Launceston College in Tasmania. Unlike Red Stitch’s current collaboration with students from St Michael’s Grammar school, The Flock and the Nest, the teenagers aren’t the focus of the story. Instead they are a chorus who watch and mock and are welcome every time they are on the stage. And they’re terrific. It’s easy to stand out on a stage; it’s a skill to blend with 31 performers and still be yourself.
The overall story is hard to follow but each episode (by writers Amelia Evans, Duncan Graham and/or Dan Giovannoni) has a satisfying completeness and adds to the ongoing mystery. It starts with twin sisters, a cowboy and a pub, and continues years later at the adult twin’s birthday party where the guests are strangers, singing is dangerous and no one knows who is really alive at the end. Does this family have any hope or is Hell a place where our past deeds come back and where everyone wears shiny blue dresses?
And if is Hell, then I’m joining the line to get in. Twin is creepy and mysterious, and while never letting the tension drop, it doesn’t lose its sense of fun or its heart; we may not really know what happens to the sisters, but we sure care and want them to be happy.
Part of the joy in watching is the continual questioning of what happened and the displacement from where we thought we were, but it wouldn’t work without a cast who are as shiny and spectacular as their teenage ensemble. From dream-haunting weird to sexy-as-all-go-get to innocence-with-a-gun, Julia Billington, Catherine Davies, Kevin Kiernan-Molloy, Rose Lockhart, Markus McKenzie, Kurt Phelan, Guy Simon and Netta Yaschin, with Stephanie Francis and Trinnay Hancock-Holmes as the young sisters, are at one with the picnic-at-hanging-rock-teen-disco-mystery-horror-movie tone and know how to know the truth without sharing the secrets.
This is theatre that wants to create a world that’s always questioning the world it’s created in. Without using tired icons or even hinting at the obvious, Twin shows an Australia that’s disturbingly recognisable and perhaps a lot closer than we’d like to think. Brilliant.
And the next instalment of The Myth Project is at Red Stitch later in the year.