Review By Alice Mooney
Moments of dark satire, Sherrin footballs, cardboard, sequins, heels and even a chill-out room. This production has gone all out leaving no stone unturned. Breeders tackles difficult content but is perfectly executed by a cast and crew whose pride and joy filled the theatre. Written by Vanessa Jo Di Natale, Breeders explores the spectrum of neurodiversity, societal misconceptions and misinformation.
A family of four, three of whom are neurodivergent, navigate their way through life in a backdrop of dark historical practices, examples of ableism and discussions around troublesome labels. Through the perspective of daughter, Anna, Breeders unpacks lack of diagnosis as well as the lack of support and acknowledgement for families with neurodiverse children and parents. Each member of this family has a vastly different experience and perspective which is equally presented amongst a healthy dose of profoundly executed satire.
Benjamin Oakes is commanding as Paul, whose torment and scrutiny he harnesses with great vigour and physicality. Cecilia Low gives a raw an honest performance as the mother of two autistic girls, Tonya and Anna played by Jess Cook and Summer Metcalf. Jess Cook brings suffering, contentment, strength and autonomy to her non-verbal character, Tonya, while her sister Anna navigates a world pitted against them, with fierce curiosity.
There is a charismatic ensemble trio featuring Michael Chan who is hilarious and charming in multiple roles, the highlight being his representation of a liberal senator accurately deflecting hard questions. Rosalind Silver brings versatility and flair within her roles with effortless presence and comical timing. Together with Artemis Muñoz, this trio of anti-vaxxers left you uncomfortably convinced of their sincerity and plight. Muñoz also delighted with their stunning piano composition hypothesising ‘another universe’ in which such issues do not exist.
Faultless lighting hits the mark and is well synced by Oliver Ross, while Olivia McKenna has taken care to present a comfortable balance of audio and visual sound design to match (videographer) Rachel Edward’s important and alarming footage of the infamous rhetoric by Andrew Wakefield. Arielle Vlahiotis’ bold choice of prop material is purposeful, humorous and unapologetic. The actors exploit the prop’s comical simplicity, steeling laughs that break up heavy themes.
There is a satirical game show, a trip to McDonald’s and a the most accurate impersonation of liberal senator right down to the Akubra hat. There are confronting issues that the Hall and the cast work through with authority and integrity. Breeders is evenly paced with clever transitions and actors used the space to great effect with bouts of chaos softened by surrounding stillness or monologue. This cast of seven had an infectious chemistry and were a pleasure to watch.
I would like to credit director Emma Mary Hall and her partnership with Vanessa Jo Di Natale, as well as the entire cast and crew, for an outstanding collaborative effort made to fully support the subject matter, with a strong commitment to access. I look forward to seeing this group involved in many more works.