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Ghosts Can’t Hold Guns: 'Laundry Shoot!' Achieves Spectral Affect but Ambiguous Narrative a Misfire

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A single shaft of white light pierces centre stage to open Laundry Shoot!, entrapping Damon Baudin’s Danny. This luminous chute casts a mask of hollowing shadows across his face. Alone on the empty Theatre Works’ space, he calls out for anyone and receives a surprising reply. God answers Danny’s plea, but she is not as he expects.  Dora Abraham’s play proliferates plural personages as three individuals – two posties and a P.E. teacher – condense imagination and reality in response to crisis. 

Colleagues Maisie (Vitoria Hronopoulos) and Friel (Marco Lawrence) meet ahead of their daily mail routes, exchanging good-natured banter stipulated on their generational differences. The patched turquoise jackets make for charming uniforms that evoke a post-apocalyptic punk aesthetic, although the tiny satchel across Maisie’s shoulder detracts from the verisimilitude of her work. Perhaps it alludes to the diminishing materiality of correspondence, or the reneged promise of stable work in an increasingly digitised contemporary. The mail-person motif is rich fodder to explore ideas of circulation, information and violence, though Laundry Shoot!’s move towards abstraction foregoes a rigorous elucidation of these themes. Crisis disrupts the mundanity of the posties’ chatter as Maisie spies a bloom of light ahead of them, beyond the audience, near where she attended school.

In the absence of concrete narrative – and within a space deplete of material signifiers – Keegan Bragg’s production of Laundry Shoot! leans heavily on its lighting and set design to render affect.  The spectral quality of the production, encompassing spectres of violence, divinity and innocence, is created through innovative play of light and shadow. In one memorable tableau a powerful orange glow alights the stage, throwing two silhouettes of Baudin’s Danny onto the curved wall behind him. Simultaneously, Maisie’s enlarged shadow is cast onto the opposite side of the stage such that she looms mystically over Danny. Such visuals, as well as a textural soundscape across the 80-minute show, do much to bolster the atmospheric tones latent in Abraham’s writing.

Friel’s command to “keep the world turning” despite the proximity of violence pertains to the dominance of machination over emotion in their workplace. Though the postie profession has remained predominantly analogue in the technological era, the response demanded of Maisie is machine-like. Friel demands that she ignore crisis in order to delay the all-out crisis that would ensue if circulation were stoppered by an incomplete mail route. This raises the most compelling and pertinent line of investigation in Laundry Shoot!: how are we affected by and how do we respond to violence that doesn’t materially (physically) impact us? The concept of ‘random’ violence that Friel expounds is persistently refuted as a web of interconnections reveals itself around the invisible crisis.

As Laundry Shoot! culminates, an intriguing relation between Danny and a disembodied child’s voice, George, emerges. Their moving dialogue evokes yearning, despair and regret which linger across the production. Yet the ambiguity of this relation is indicative of a broader problem: why is Danny in a laundry chute? What crisis are the characters responding to? Why is God here, why so much pretence, and who is George? A lack of narrative resolution ultimately dulls the acuteness of Abraham’s probe into violence and crisis. Whilst the abstract can engineer modes of representing the ‘un-representable’, the extent of ambiguity in Laundry Shoot! is unfortunately reductive. Nonetheless, the ambitious dramaturgy of this production attests to Abraham’s elusive and provocative play.

Laundry Shoot! showed at Theatre Works in St Kilda 9-12 January.

 

Credits

DIRECTED BY
Keegan Bragg
WRITTEN BY
Dora Abraham
SET DESIGN BY
Max Bowyer
SOUND DESIGN BY
Ethan Hunter
LIGHTING DESIGN BY
Iz Zettl
COSTUME DESIGN BY
Jodi Hope
STAGE MANAGER
Tiah Bullock
CAST
Damon Baudin
Vitoria Hronopoulos
Marco Lawrence

 
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