The World is a Mess. And so are we.
Part night club, part drinking game, part public confessional, The Danger Ensemble’s bold, provocative new work Sons of Sin at The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, explores ‘what is it to be a man’.
Using a drinking game with random outcomes as the guise to thread a series of eclectic stories, the piece is a largely improvised, group devised work.
This is adventure theatre at its height. It is a confrontational, compelling and challenging mix of improvised and scripted theatre including violence, comedy, nudity, male bonding, lots of drinking, and group participation – the audience that is.
At the very onset, the audience is confronted by an initiation ritual whereby each of the cast members heads are dunked into an esky of water, stripped naked, blind folded and left to make their own way back to their suits where the blindfold doesn’t come off until they are completely dressed.
I don’t think I have ever watched a piece of theatre where I spent most of the time with my jaw dropped on the floor utterly gob-smacked. Did they really say that? Did they really do that? I can’t believe what I’m watching. This is fascinating. This is shocking. I felt like a voyeur, especially being female, to the very private world of men and mate ship.
The various staging platforms were magnificent. Firstly, there is no theatre setting. You enter the theatre space and stand around a large square, outlined with a circle of large Alice-in-Wonderland sized playing cards, which becomes the catalyst for a drinking game come choose-your-own adventure improvised theatrical experience.
There are also three-tiers of scaffolding upon which the nine bearded young men do a great rendition of “All the Single Ladies”, as well as perform their “truth or dare” hot seat sessions where the audience has control over the questions or the physical act the actor must do. What an experiment in crowd participation. And lastly, the audience were herded by the players, as savage dogs, to one side of the stage so that they may witness a large shutter roll up to reveal a shop window tableau of seemingly random mannequins which come to life in extraordinary scripted segments.
The confessional monologues throughout were poignant moments, and brave contributions by the young men to the work, giving it gravitas as something with greater meaning than just a raucous rite-of-passage display of masculinity. And just when we get to the crux of emotional vulnerability, the dub-dub music starts up again and the youths carry on with their drinking game as though nothing had happened.
My only disappointment was that while the audience was invited to participate and mould the evening’s proceedings, not all offers were accepted. If it was a true experiment or display of “we will do anything – dare us”, then they should have said ‘yes’, no matter how mundane or extreme (although within health and safety guidelines of course). This not only respects the audience, but upholds the integrity of the show’s concept and fulfils the fundamental theatre sports rule of “you must accept the offer”.
In addition, a little more time in development to clean up the ending, and perhaps cut out a few cards would help maintain the punch of this production. It gave the feeling that the alcohol was wearing off towards the end and that just makes both the actors and the audience a little weary.
Superbly directed by Steven Mitchell Wright, with lighting by Ben Hughes, live sound mix by Henry Collins and devised by the nine brave 20-somethings cast, (Alex Fowler, William Horan, Thomas Hutchins, Aaron Wilson, Ron Seeto, Chris Farrell, Samuel Schoessow, Charlie Schache and Stephen Quinn), Sons of Sin is a genre defying show on the frontier of new theatrical experiences.
The show does come with a warning: Sons of Sin contains adult themes, full nudity, strong violence, coarse language, weapons, strobe lighting and theatrical smoke effects. Due to the visceral nature of Sons of Sin, patrons may get wet, dirty, splashed or spoiled and may wish to dress accordingly. In addition to this, there is no audience seating and members are required to stand and move around the ‘in the round’ staging.
My advice is to go with the flow and enjoy a wild night at the theatre. To fully immerse yourself in the experience, have a drink beforehand and take one in with you, as well as your mobile phone, as you will need both of these on the inside. And leave your bag outside with the ushers – you won’t need it where you’re going.