Silent Disco – Powerful Theatre – June 18 2011

A couple of hours ago I returned home from seeing the latest production at HotHouse Theatre – Silent Disco, but this post will not be a review or synopsis, but rather a way to process my response to what is one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I have seen not just at HotHouse but anywhere.

I didn’t know a lot about the play when I made the decision to go, but had in my mind that I was going to be moved out of my comfort zone – which as a writer is a good place to sometimes be – but it turned out that I was in a more familiar place than I had expected and was so absorbed in that place through the authenticity of Lachlan Philpot’s words and the performances that it evoked quite an emotional response.

Nor did I know what a silent disco was. For the uninitiated or those of us whose school socials are almost a distant memory, it involves people at the disco hearing the music through their headphones or ipods giving the illusion that they are dancing in silence, but with no headphones or ipods you’re excluded.

(Having said that my school social is a distant memory, that memory came in front and centre during the play and I remembered exactly what I wore to a fourth form, now Year 10, dance. It was a red mini skirt, with bib and straps with a black butterfly appliquéd on it and a stretch knit collared tee.)

Tamara’s counting of the weeks, days, hours and minutes that she and Jasyn have been together, and her excitement at the thought of him taking her to the formal is also very recognisable no matter what your age.

Silent Disco is essentially a love story; not in the Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lovers style because the main characters, Jasyn (Meyne Wyatt) and Tamara (Sophie Hansser) live and travel in worlds that are similar because they are particularly fragile.  Jasyn’s brother Dane (Kirk Page) is in jail and Tamara lives with her dad after her mother has left. You sense from the beginning  that the smallest things could upset what little balance exists in them.

I’ve met girls like Tamara – sassy is the word which once would have been used to describe her but, because of the language she uses, smart arse or a worse descriptor might be used to label her: she’s a girl who uses sarcasm and the smart response to mask her uncertainty and fear.

I’ve also met and worked with teachers like Mrs Petchall (Camilla Ah Kin) who despite the challenges they face every day in the classroom seek to see the best in their students and genuinely care.  Those teachers do change or at the least alter the course of some young people’s lives.

There’s a scene when Mrs Petchall does a roll call of students from past years and wonders what has happened to them. They were more than a name in a roll book for her.

This was one of the quieter moments in the play when I felt I could take a breath, because the pace set during most of the production is as fast and unbroken as an eighties disco or current techno beat.

There’s a sense of time being compressed as events overtake the two young lovers and you can feel the tension building when there is a disconnection between the two that goes beyond their unanswered phone calls and text messages to each other.

The climax of the play is powerful and perhaps the intensity of my reaction to it was the real way the anger and betrayal was played out, and then the reality of the resolution.

But I think it’s also because while Silent Disco is set in the here and now where it’s easy to lay the blame for any adolescent disconnectedness on the ‘i’ of the iphone, ipod and other devices, the play is essentially about each of us wanting a place in the world which is safe, secure and even a little predictable.

I highly recommend going to experience this powerful play and congratulate HotHouse Theatre, Griffin Theatre Company, Australian Theatre for Young People and The Border Mail for bringing this to our doorstep.

Silent Disco is playing at HotHouse Theatre until June 25. For booking details click here.

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