Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Sound of Waiting

The Sound of Waiting by Mary Anne Butler.  Darlinghurst Theatre Company at Eternity Theatre, Sydney, March 31 – April 22, 2018.

Director – Suzanne Pereira; Video Artist and Screen Designer – Samuel James; Composer and Sound Designer – Tegan Nicholls; Lighting Designer – Christopher Page

Reza Momenzada as Hamed Mokri; Gabrielle Scawthorn as The Angel of Death

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 8

The Sound of Waiting is more like performance poetry than a conventional drama.  There are two voices in a tone poem: the father, Hamed, “who escapes his war-torn country to seek a future of hope and possibility for his young daughter” and an Angel of Death who becomes “Hamed’s antagonist; the Angel’s job being to eliminate Hamed en route, as per instructed by The Host – who has ordered the Angels of Death to eliminate every displaced person on the planet” (Mary Anne Butler in her Playwright’s Note).

I can imagine this work as a purely sound recording by Tegan Nicholls, which I think would work very well.  On stage it becomes imagist theatre.  Centre stage is a small low ‘island’.  It is surrounded by a circle of see-through netting hung from on high on a track, with an opening in front, so that the Angel or Hamed can speak in front of the curtain, or can open the curtain to left or right or both ways at once, and take up positions at floor level inside the curtain area, or on the island. 

On the netting simple images are projected, such as water drops moving upwards as Hamed’s boat sinks.  White feathers float down and catch on the netting towards the end.  These images are abstract, creating just enough reference to the story Hamed tells – of the bomb which kills his wife and son, of the soldier who accepts their counterfeit documents to escape their country, of their flight in a decrepit aircraft, of the overcrowded boat with an unreliable engine, of the storm, the sinking and their drowning.  The Angel succeeds in her mission, though even she at times admits to empathetic feelings for this determined father and hapless child.

The work becomes emblematic, representing the hypocrisy of power players in the world who speak of achieving great things while causing so many to become refugees and then claiming to save lives by turning back the boats.

The Sound of Waiting is an interesting and worthwhile example of Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s aim to “value freedom of expression, the discussion of ideas, different points of view and dialogue.  We seek out work and provocations that explore, discuss and engage with contemporary Australia and topical issues.  It is this ‘democracy of ideas’ that drives our company...”