Amelia Anonymous review by David Casey
Seen 10th May
Performance Season from 10th to 11th of May, at Cupo and Concept, 17 McLachlan Street, Fortitude Valley
Corralled into a dark back-room in the Valley, one would be correct in assuming that we’re about to go for a trip. As Amelia Anonymous guides us through the perfect storm of puberty and mental illness, for some it will be a reminder of their youth, for others an insight into the mind of struggling teenagers they know today.
This is the strength of Amelia Anonymous, an opportunity for people to learn what it’s like to be a young person struggling alone in the darkness. A moment that brought me to tears was Amelia’s father calling her ‘fragile’ in a poorly thought out stream of consciousness. His words form part of the chorus of voices that keep Amelia from sleeping later that night. As much as parents try to help, there is a communication gap in a lot of family dynamics, and Amelia Anonymous leans into this to lend credence to her anxieties around isolation and identity.
The aforementioned chorus of voices were represented by actors clad in black wielding colored torches – one for each color of the rainbow. I was very excited to see this when I entered, but felt as though they were a more a creative solution to performing without stage lights than an integrated part of the narrative. In the beginning, Amelia describes how each is a color of the rainbow, and which her and her family’s favorite colors are, but after this point the colors are not utilized or referenced within the world again, so it begins to feel like each voice or color is symbolic of something, but I was never quite sure what. With the exception of a breakdown in the climax of the show, the performers of the voices do not interact with the ‘real world’ of the show, so I wonder why it is these voices were performed by actors at all, not simply voiced over with cued lighting effects for the colors. I can understand their desire to do so however, as there is a beautiful effect created by the performance being lit only by an array of handheld torches and in-world lights such as the television or a nightlight.
It’s always a joy to watch child actors live, and Sinclair does not disappoint. His enjoyment of the role radiates from every gesture, and his authenticity and eagerness to be performing are perfectly suited to being the light in the darkness for the audience, and for Amelia. The scenes between the two in his room were touching, however the width of the performance space meant that they were heavily obscured for myself sitting in the far-left side of the audience.
One thing I would like to point out is that in the marketing material the show is advertised as ‘a technology immersive work’. I’m not sure what the creative team meant by this, and it definitely gave me the wrong impression when choosing which shows to see. Where I was expecting an individual audience experience driven by maybe audio recordings or phones, Amelia Anonymous is a fairly traditional seated and passive audience. With immersive theatre being such a big genre, especially in Anywhere Festival, I was surprised to see a show advertise itself as such without really having the interactivity and/or exploration that characterizes the genre.
All in all, Amelia Anonymous is a vulnerable and necessary insight into youth mental illness, and I am very excited to see if the team re-mount the production in future.
Highly recommended for families, and those who want to be lights for the ones they love.