When Pinch Me allows itself to be a piece of theatre—rather than a spoken-word short story—it excels. The play’s most physical moments are its most special, elevated by the excelling energy of Dead Owl Factory’s main actress as she bounces across the stage, complimenting the script and the images projected behind her. Bare feet across the concrete of the SAE rooftop can only be imagined as uncomfortable at best by the audience, and as such her movement is admired. Indeed when the script, which at times is heavy-handed at best, finds itself aligned with the actual performance going on, what emerges is a piece of theatre that really proves itself in the arena of the Anywhere Festival.
But beyond these few moments of glorious energy we find a blandness, a sense of many scenes running too long, with drawn-out speeches that describe what the acting could be showing—all of which maybe indicates Pinch Me’s validity as a much shorter play. Because there are scenes that stand out. For instance, the beginning, which paves the way for the rest of the production, takes form as a warm invite into the concept of a dreamscape, and serves as an exploration of what it even means to dream.
But from there the play takes an unexpected term. This dream we were promised evolves into a plead for the Australian cultural and political embrace of environmentalism, and this would not necessarily be a bad thing if not for the heavy-handedness of the play’s thematic discussion. See, when lines such as “I hear on the news the honourable Tony Abbott say: ‘coal is good for humanity’” come up, I can’t help but cringe at the lack of trust given to the audience here. Because of course we can contextualise the play. Just yesterday one of Tony Abbott’s advisors came out against climate change, claiming it to be a weapon of subjugation as employed by the UN and the New World Order.
We get it. We know Australia’s environmental policy is a mess. Anyone who’s in the demographic for Anywhere Festival in Brisbane is aware of this. In fact, we’re likely the ones hoping for change, agreeing with Pinch Me’s hypothesis.
And maybe that’s the thing. Maybe Pinch Me for all its moments of projection-fuelled brilliance and warmth doesn’t really know who it’s written for. The Anywhere audience is small and blooming, but it does tend to largely sample Brisbane’s more open-minded arts community. These are people who don’t need Pinch Me’s environmental message drilled into their brains. We get it, we hate it, we agree—so show us something more.
Purchase your tickets to Pinch Me here.
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the SAE Institute performance on May 8.
Full disclaimer: The reviewer is friends with a member of Dead Owl Factory.