Back to Back Theatre’s Super Discount has arrived at the Wharf as part of the tail-end of Sydney Theatre Company’s 2013, and it is well-worth the wait.
Continuing the tradition of stellar interstate imports in the smaller STC spaces, Super Discount is a challenging piece of devised theatre that commands full attention of its audience.
It’s a black box adorned only with dry ice and a handful of props. On this stage, a tale of heroes and villains springs forth – through the discussion of how to cast a play about heroes and villains. Company member Mark needs to be re-cast, and so the auditions, and the group feelings around this, are the groundwork for this devised piece – but is it appropriate to cast an able-bodied person to play someone with a disability?
From here, verbatim conversations from the rehearsal room are intercut with the blackest of observation comedy bits, wry references to Rain Man and other instances of appropriated disability, and, within it all, Mark and his fellow company members present something beautiful in all its roughness. (It’s not supposed to feel more than rough). This piece never leaves the rehearsal and it never has to – there’s something so immediate about a devised work that refuses to follow the structure of a traditional play.
Directed by Bruce Gladwin, the production moves at a brisk clip and finds its laughs and its poignancy in similar places, or re-treads of the same places, proving exactly how much these two concepts sit along the same edge of an ever-spinning coin. Repition is a constantly utilised device in the piece, as everyone has a go at representing Mark talking to the new recruit choreographer about his style, about his take on superheroes, and inadvertently reveal themselves.
Mark’s role might be shared, debated, and co-opted, but he, as largely non-verbal figure who gradually takes on the play he is being replaced in before our eyes, and he forever remains the loudly beating heart of the piece. Super Discount wouldn’t exist without Mark, whether he is re-cast or not, and it is this image – of erased visibility drawing itself back into the picture – that is the most striking of them all. This play isn’t remarkable because the company is comprised of artists with disabilities; rather, the play is remarkable because it takes the format of devised theatre and pushes at a fourth wall, never breaking it, the hero and the villain heading to their showdown while looking the audience right in the eye.
Super Discount runs until October 19. Tickets available at Sydneytheatre.com.au