BWW REVIEW: New Work, SMURF IN WANDERLAND Shines A Spotlight On Sydney, Its People, Passion And Perseverance As A Community United By Sport.
Saturday 22nd April 2017, 7:30pm, Lennox Theatre, Riverside Theatres
David Williams' (writer and performer) new one man show, SMURF IN WANDERLAND, Directed by Lee Lewis, shares a personal story of a discovery as he undertakes his own social experiment to challenge the notion that Sydney is dangerously divided by its sporting loyalties. Presented with a casualness and honesty, this is more than just an expression of one man's passion for Football, delving deeper to be an anthropological study of sorts, sharing real experiences of an outsider infiltrating the opposition's ranks.
Premiering at Riverside Theatre, around the corner from Parramatta's Pirteck Stadium, home to the Western Sydney Wanderers and therefore dubbed Wanderland during the Football season, this part TED Talk, pArt Theatre experience, shares Williams' experience of being an obvious outsider in Sydney Football Club's Sky Blue jersey, the "Smurf", in a sea of Wanders' red and black. On a section of stadium seating, designed by CharLes Davis (Set and Costume Design), under the Wanderer's red and black banner, Williams presents a blend of staged monologue and lecture, utilising two television monitors for section titles, audience prompts and images from various media. The scattered assortment of posters, magazines and books are utilised throughout the performance as Williams makes full use of the stadium seats, dropped in to the broader black box space of Lennox Theatre. Davies has kept Williams in the comfortable in clothes he would normally wear to watch a game whilst he conducted his social experiment, namely the Sydney FC jersey offset by the Western Sydney black and red lanyard holding his Western Sydney membership card. Minor additions are used to punctuate the story which is otherwise kept quite simple for the most part.
Sound designer and composer James Brown gives the story atmosphere, surrounding the audience with the sound of the roaring crowds and boosting the audience participation chants that Williams leads. Lighting designer Luiz Pampolha aids the transitions back and forth in William's timeline that covers both his own personal and family history with the Western suburbs, significant events in the sport's history and more particularly, the period of Season 9 of the A-League, October 2013 to May 2014, when he conducted his immersive investigation.
This well paced, friendly, passionate without being overbearing tale is more than just an account of sitting in the stands. Williams shares his personal experiences of being a long time supporter of a team that has repeatedly had issues and the related dedication and commitment he and his fellow supporters have shown to a club in lean years. As he inserts himself into the community of the younger, still more successful club, conspicuous in his origins, he shares his observations and experiences from being amongst a younger club and a more varied demographic. Williams provides a considered analysis of his experiences to highlight the media and political manipulation of the image of football fans to provide a more realistic and honest view of the inclusionary and peaceful experiences he encountered, not seeing the reported thuggery aside from the police show of force at games and their obnoxious behaviour of attempting to bait and provoke a response. Williams explains the game and its 'politics' with enough detail for non-sports fans, of which this BWW reviewer is one, to follow along well enough without overwhelming or boring the audience. He also, thankfully, explains the geography of his story well, ensuring those not from Sydney, or not familiar with the Western Suburbs are given an adequate understanding to picture the extent of the region. This is more than just a lecture as Williams engages with the audience to help illustrate his anecdotes, with success very dependent on the willingness of the audience and the balance in the theatre, which did shift remarkably after intermission.
SMURF IN WANDERLAND is produced by the National Theatre of Parramatta which seeks to give Western Sydney a voice in theatre, and in association with Griffin Theatre Company, which specialises in Home grown work. . This is an interesting look at the broader Sydney society and its division, unity, prejudice, acceptance, community, camaraderie, persistence, perseverance and tolerance, SMURF IN WANDERLAND is not just for Football fans but anyone that has lived in a society that its leaders have tried to divide and pit against each other, either in the form of media manipulation or other means. Currently playing in Parramatta, it will be interesting to see if the mood shifts when Williams takes it out of Wander's territory and into Sydney FC territory.
SMURF IN WANDERLAND
20 - 29th April 2017
2 - 13 May 2017