Review: The Antipodes27 August 2018
Darcy Kent, Ben Prendergst, Edwina Samuels, Harvey Zielinski, Ngaire Dawn Fair – photo credit Jodie Hutchinson
If you’re looking for a predictable play with a clear and rosy take away, The Antipodes might not be for you. However, if you’re in the mood for a fantastical, dream-like, and at times, deeply unsettling excerpt from playwright Annie Baker’s imagination, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
The ambiguous and perplexing Red Stitch production explores the creative (and exploited) process of brainstorming in addition the meaningful (and commodified) role storytelling plays in human existence. No story is too taboo or graphic for the unorthodox Baker, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2014.
Set in a boardroom of sorts, the play is carried out in one act and follows a group of writers who have gathered to produce a story idea for an undisclosed project. The relatively fixed and unchanging set, that could easily become static and stuffy, is kept alive through Ella Caldwell’s clever direction and the magnetic and mesmerizing performance of every character in the play.
The audience is informed that the purpose of the meeting is to “… change the world and make a shitload of money.” Cue uncensored and graphic recounts of sexual experiences, STD’s and suicidal family members being shared amongst the table. If the stories aren’t outrageous or unabridged enough, the dissatisfaction around the table is clear.
As the play progresses, the subject of how time might be visually represented is explored. Meanwhile, the dialogue is embodied in the work itself. The context of time is signified through the changing outfits of Sarah, the bubbly secretary, who we later learn carries her own disturbing story.
Whilst the play is certainly thought provoking, its ambiguity can feel frustrating at times. There were moments where I wondered whether the play consisted of genius content, or whether it was constructed of a cluster of half-finished ideas. It was a contentious topic in the foyer after the show, and I wonder whether this was just the type of conversation Red Stich was hoping to ignite.
The Antipodes implicitly touches on issues such as exploitation and gender inequalities in the workplace. Newbie, Josh, is repetitively shrugged off when he tentatively questions why he has not yet been paid or provided with an ID. While the quirky Eleanor quietly works to hold her own as the token female at the table, and briefly absorbs the attention of her co-workers upon revealing the remnants of gills she possesses behind her ears. And so, the surreal aspects of Bakers artistry begin to seep into the script.
Signal a guest appearance from the supernatural (?), a ritual with blood and probiotics and stories containing woman with penises on their heads and men with vaginas as mouths, the bizarre and captivating tale continues.
I left Red Stitch Actors Theater feeling as though I had just awoken from an odd and bewitching dream, attempting to derive conclusive meanings from the somewhat non-sensical release of Baker’s entrancing subconscious and Red Stitch’s spellbinding production.