Review by Taylor Kendal
Brought to life by Adelaide independent theatre company Stage Secrets comes a chilling and thought provoking adaptation of Geoff Gillham’s Bone Cage; a powerful, unsettling and at times unbearable insight into the world of domestic violence. Merging aspects of traditional theatre and the added elements of audio and visual layers, Bone Cage brings us into the world of a woman who is quite literally, held captive in a dangerous, violent relationship.
The statistics regarding domestic and family violence have always been staggeringly high in Australia, but with the recent numerous lockdowns during the pandemic, these statistics and the painful realities that are attached have skyrocketed. Director Dr. Corinna Di Niro is a firm believer in using theatre as a tool and launching spot for education, social awareness and change, and crafted this piece using the all too real themes of domestic and family violence in such a realistic and confronting fashion.
The opening scene offers an insight from the view point of the husband; subtly controlling, portraying a happy, supportive relationship with his seemingly happy and subdued wife. It is clear in the beginning that there is something wrong with the picture; the small details that the audience can pick up on despite the character’s seemingly nonchalant attitude. However, from that point on things take a dark turn, as we are shown what happens behind closed doors, the view point of the woman, the victim. We are introduced to ‘the bone cage’; a harsh, terrifying contraption that keeps the woman locked up and tied down; created from broken wood, zipties, wire and all matter of harsh and dangerous objects designed to keep her close. It is both a physical and visual representation of being literally caged, and the suffocating feeling of being trapped in a dangerous, dehumanising relationship.
The audience is launched full force into the discomfort and terror that fills the small space. You don’t want to watch, or listen, but it surrounds you, and you feel this visceral fear of what is going to happen. Fear of the unknown. Unlike most theatre performances that are usually narrative driven, the play is not focusing on what is being said, but the tense emotions running high, the way in which the dialogue is being said; the sense of loss and hopelessness that is being conveyed. For the most part, the dialogue is quite sparce and broken and at times can be considered quite jarring. The fragmented exchanges highlight the breaks in communication in a way or lack thereof; where one party has the final, perhaps only say. I do understand how and why kind of delivery is used, there are some moments throughout the performance where it’s jarring and a little distracting from the scene.
The three actors at the centre of the play (Georgia Laity, Suzanne Bleeze and Robert Donnarumm) do well to personify the various players in a situation like this; the captor, the victim and the one trying to help. The sense that they are playing nameless faces rather than well rounded characters adds to the realisation that this is not a singular occurrence; how they are every person in a domestic violence situation.
For me, the real scene stealer for this production is the audio and visual aspects. The use of technology throughout adds a harsh and rather sobering element to the already heightened air of discomfort. Visuals depicting the anarchy and the chaos provide an intimate view into a violent relationship, while Phil van Hout and Sina Matezki’s soundscape was almost unbearable, yet created so perfectly to pull you into the moment, and realise at some depth, just what these victims suffer through. It’s poignant and discomforting and an incredibly impactful addition to an already thought provoking piece of theatre.
Bone Cage is a time relevant and powerful piece of theatre, well researched and crafted with care and intent, that aims to cause discomfort, awaken people to what could – and likely is – happening in some way around you, and give a platform for education, discussion and ultimately, change.