Review by Stephanie Lee
Funny, inviting, terrifying and incredibly confronting all at once, Chase is a chaotic force to be reckoned with. Devised and performed by Carly Sheppard, the character Chase has been in creation for nearly a decade and is living her best life on the Malthouse stage.
This 70 minute long solo show follows Chase at the end of the world, still uploading religiously to her YouTube channel and encouraging people to ‘like and subscribe’ as her world literally burns around her. Accompanying Chase in her endeavours to capture aspects of her isolated life are her companions Influenza (a barbie influencer), Sally Roundtree (a half barbie half microphone figure) and Traditional Girl (a doll that is a “real aborigine” with a crow on its shoulder), which are all also brought to life by Carly Sheppard.
Without much explanation of the ‘plot’ or premise of the show, the audience walked into a space of simultaneous play and terror. Trying to make total sense of Chase is ultimately a futile task, as Carly Sheppard with help of director Kamarra Bell-Wykes has crafted a multi-layered piece that holds a fragmented mirror back to Australian society and in doing so asks its audience to learn what it can from Chase’s mess. Themes of colonisation, climate change and social media pervade the performance with comedy, dance and videography intertwining in interesting ways to explore them.
smallsound’s eclectic set design coupled with the ferocity of Devika Bilimoria’s videography and Katie Sfetkidis’ lighting design truly built the apocalyptic world of the show. The cardboard backdrop set the scene for the chaos of the space, with projections of fire and quick flashing videos of Chase in various states appearing in tense moments during Chase’s mental unravelling. The detail of the props and different facets of the set felt like they were developed alongside Carly’s character, as they worked coherently together and the space truly grounded Chase.
Carly herself is incredibly in control despite her character’s lack thereof, as she masterfully portrays Chase’s descent into isolated madness. Exaggerating Chase’s ‘ugly’ characteristics, Carly is incredibly compelling to watch both in her humorous moments and in those ugly, distraught, terrifying ones. Particularly captivating was Chase’s ‘night terrors’, where Carly crawled around the space making animal-like clucking noises and thrashed violently around. Coupled with the flashing videography and their stark contrast with the humour of Chase’s influencer persona, the terrors were truly affective at shocking the audience out of their comfort in laughing along with Chase.
Although the show is incredibly interesting, it is clear that Chase is not a show for everyone, as it is distinct in its blunt quality and abundance of layers that at times are extremely hectic and a little disorientating. Leaving Chase’s bunker does feel like re-entering the world after having it completely obliterated in front of your eyes, and I’m sure the show’s remnants will continue to shift the way I see the physical world around us and the society we live in.