The scene: a cosy Brisbane city café, a group of young actors stand before you, smiling, cheerful. A showing of hands casts a vote to select a victim, a second showing chooses their method of execution. Five enter, none leave alive. Is this really just a performance, or have I just witnessed a crime?
Try not to draw comparisons to Interview with a Vampire – this gripping piece of provocative theatre (from Daniel Gough and the Suicide Ensemble) is sure to elicit responses from even the most jaded of audiences. In part due to the intimacy of the venue (Brisbane City’s Bean), it’s difficult to distance yourself from each violent act as it takes place, and clever design makes a hard task of separating the real and the fabricated. The young cast give a superb performance, from their almost obscene irreverence as they dispose of each casualty, to the perfectly played suicides themselves – as you’d expect from any work that hopes to push the boundaries of reality theatre.
Cast and crew do their best to enable a safe environment, but after a brief disclaimer, they pull no punches as they march inexorably towards oblivion. Audience participation takes an “open forum” approach where any and all outbursts and discussions are allowed (normally, these are expected but the performance I experienced seemed uncharacteristically sober). Each showing follows a set formula, each suicide followed by a theatrical standard (a romance, a conflict) and it’s these interjections that fall flat in comparison with the otherwise raw and beautifully staged suicides themselves – regardless, they serve well as reprieves, even if only to then remind you that there can be no true relief in this theatre designed to provoke, to agitate, almost tortuously so.
You owe it to yourself to witness the spectacle – a subjective piece that must be experienced firsthand. Just remember, even once the show is over, the mark on the audience remains – this is something that will stick with you.
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 9.