BWW REVIEW: The Challenge Of Growing Up As An Outsider With An Active Imagination And Unusual Obsessions Is Explored in Declan Greene's MOTH
Friday 8th September 2017, 7pm, ATYP
A darker side of adolescence which has the potential to fall through the gaps is explored in Declan Greene's MOTH. Director Rachel Chant brings the Award winning story of two misfits back to the Sydney stage in Millstone Production's captivating interpretation of the two hander.
Centred around two teens that sit on the outside of the school social structure, MOTH sees Sebastian (Jeremi Campese) and Claryssa (Ruby O'Kelly) narrate their memories of the events leading up to a tragic ending. The 15 year old Sebastian is hyperactive, annoying and grossly disliked by everyone apart from his only friend Claryssa, a sullen 'emo' Wiccan who is almost as equally excluded by their classmates. Whilst Claryssa finds comfort in art, Sebastian escapes to a world inside his head, inspired by anime, sci-fi, odd idols and doing away with a cruel society that includes the school bully throwing all manner of objects at him and forcing him to irreparably damage his only friendship.
Designer Tyler Ray Hawkins creates a school yard setting with curved concrete rising up out of the turf and topped with cyclone fencing to allude to a space on the periphery of the playing fields where Sebastian and Claryssa retreat too in an attempt to escape the society they dislike and the bullies that see the diminutive Sebastian as fair game. Alexander Berlage's lighting allows the space to transition to represent different times of day that the two catch up by the fence, schoolrooms, homes and also Sebastian's withdrawal into his own imagination. The audience is taken further into Sebastian's mind with the aid of Todd Fuller's animation, projected onto the concrete.
Jeremi Campese and Ruby O'Kelly are wonderful as the two outsiders that have found support in each other in their own dysfunctional friendship. Campese captures Sebastian's annoying energy with a realism that ensures the audience can instantly identify and relate to knowing at least one person like Sebastian growing up. O'Kelly presents the sullen teen with an equal honesty but she ensures that the audience sees that Claryssa has a compassion and vulnerability beneath the tough exterior. They balance the physicality between natural and playing up the drama of the situation, emphasising the juvenile teasing and the distant distain. As the two characters narrate the story, Greene has them weaving between memories and re-enactments, at times taking on the voices of the characters that come into the teens' timeline. Campese and O'Kelly capture these voices and dramatizations with humour ensuring that the stereotypes are clear along with the inference of the duo's real feelings towards the people to whom they are giving voice.
This work exposes difficult topics and highlights the need to pay attention to the misfits and outcasts from society as Sebastian hasn't hit the authorities radar like other children, but has quietly been retreating into his own damaged mind that sees death and destruction of that which troubles him as a solution. It also looks at the progression and pervasiveness of bullying as whilst Sebastian is the main target of physical assaults from the school bully the tables turn and surprisingly he becomes the aggressor both to his only friend, and to those that have shunned him. What starts as the bizarre social trend of teasing and calling friends names evolves to doing even more vile things to the one that are closest, potentially as a means of self preservation or a desire to be seen to fit in with the oppressors.
MOTH is an intriguing work, presented with inventive staging in the intimate space of the ATYP theatre stage with a wonderful cast of newcomers to watch out for. It has an honesty within the surreal experience of delving into Sebastian's damaged mind and is both relatable and enlightening whilst serving as a reminder to check in with the quiet and give the annoying the time and attention to feel included and accepted for who they are.
ATYP Studio 1
September 6 - 16 2017