Saturday, November 5, 2022

Utopiate - Rebus Theatre


Utopiate devised and performed by the participants and directors of Rebus Theatre’s Flair program with the support of Belco Arts.

Belconnen Arts Theatre, 4,5 and 12 November, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone, November 5

Cast & Crew

    Sam Floyd                                Thorax Mansion
    Megumi Kawada                      Mars Bar
    Zoe Trevorrow                         Purple Raindrop
    Stephen Perkins                        Silver Star
    Edward “Woody” Menzies       Mitchell King
    Carol Jayne “CJ” McManus     Elsa Whitney
    Leanne Shutt                            Crystal Hart
    Josh Rose                                 Tom Johnson
    Sammy Moynihan                    Co-Director
    Ben Drysdale                            Co-Director
    Melissa Gryglewski                 Assistant Director
    Marlëné Claudine Radice        Sound Designer
    Leah Ridley                             Costume Designer
    Fi Hopkins                                Costume Designer
    Rhiley Winnett                         Stage Manager
    Josh Sellick                              Audio Operator
    Stephen Rose                            Lighting Operator
Photos by Andrew Sikorski

Rebus Theatre’s cast of disabled actors, and actors with lived experience of mental ill health, in their invention of the idea of a planet, Utopiate, of perfect happiness for the people of painful Earth to escape to, have echoed something of Shakespeare’s play The TempestUtopiate begins with a storm of pain on Earth – of physical, social and emotional causes.  One could well be suspicious of the tv ad for space travel to Utopiate (is the non-human Thorax really Elon Musk in disguise?).

The cast as Humans on Earth in pain.
Utopiate by Rebus Theatre

And indeed, life on Utopiate, even with the good intentions of the Alien locals, Mars Bar, Purple Raindrop and Silver Star, but run by the quite dictatorial Thorax Mansion, turns out not to be easy – especially when the Humans begin to feel homesick for the pleasant memories of the natural world on Earth.

Leanne Shutt as Crystal Hart
Memories of Nature on Earth
Utopiate by Rebus Theatre

And so the Humans return to Earth with a message very much like the youthful Ferdinand’s words when he has seen Miranda, but must ‘remove / Some thousands of these logs, and pile them up’ in the hope her father, Prospero, will accept him as her suitor.

There be some sports are painful, and their labour
Delight in them sets off: some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone; and most poor matters
Point to rich ends.

Working as a group to create their play, the Rebus team leave us with the question “Can we truly experience growth and love without adversity?”  Like Ferdinand, they have found the delight in working hard to experience rich ends.  And, like Prospero, Thorax has to accept that being a dictator of happiness is an unresolvable contradiction.  As Prospero tells his audience:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own;
Which is most faint.

Despite the adversities that all the members of Rebus Theatre face daily, they have successfully created a play showing growth and love, tied together with a sense of humour.  Delightful theatre, in other words.

The Aliens on Utopiate
the planet of happiness

The Humans on Earth
the planet of pain