By Alice Mooney
As a fly on the wall, take a look at the lives of three young women in Sarah Shade’s Flock and experience a voyeuristic perspective of domesticity in the contemporary Jehovah Witness home. Lea, Becca and Rachel, at the beginning of adulthood, grapple with the reality of living together in a conservative Christian family unit. Rachel’s love affair leaves her condemned and dehumanised, Lea is desperate to break out of the grip of anxiety and to grow and Becca remains obedient with fear. Alcohol plays a key role in this narrative as antagonist, healer and taboo as each character tempers their fires at certain points to justify a seemingly ordained existence. With reference to Genesis, Rachel and Leah are liabilities to their parents who justify outdated methods of punishment to remind them of their purpose as a servant to their God.
Sarah Shade balances a bold and commanding performance with her character, Rachel's, lack of purpose. The relationship between her and Leah (Briannah Borg) gains strength against their oppressive parents and their chemistry together emphasises the fracture between them and Becca further ostracising them. One is plagued by anxiety, the other struggles with self-image, they become easy targets for their zealotic parents to inflict punishments from the old dogma. While audiences may cringe at the consequence, Becca (Rachel Adams) who illustrates the alternative, is the fearful example of compliance. Adams displays a consistency in her characters attitude. Becca’s reluctancy to rebel resinates itself as criticism toward her sisters, the beginnings of an inevitable fracture. No matter what directions they decide to go, there is no way out and you are struck by the injury of despair as the girls sing of visions of freedom.
The set is an understated open plan living space with contemporary props, but a significant amount of dialogue takes place upstage on a couch behind a coffee table, whereby the distance from the audience becomes a little diluted. However, the cast were able to redeem this when more intimate dialogue and narration took place further downstage toward the end of the performance.
Brianna Borgs narration really ties up any lose ends in the story and very much helped to understand it from the perspective of Leah. The three girls are bold and share equal command and stage presence which comes to life among rapid dialogue and argumentative scenes. Sarah Shades script wrestles with the commodification of these young women with bleak reference in trading information and money to justify violence and punishment. The father figure played by Shane Grubba, is a powerful example of how male tendencies toward alcoholism subdue overwhelming emotion. The character may once have been plagued by guilt but under the pressure of religious conformity enforced by his wife, the alcohol acts as mediator, medication and validation. It cements the vision of hypocrisy associated with dogmatic institutions that set themselves above criticism. This may be offensive or blunt, but more importantly Flock does not sensationalise.
The play demonstrates the pressure under which one family strains to maintain their faith. The parents weaponize faith against their daughters as conformity in the eyes of the outside world is the main agenda, leaving little space for love and spirituality. In a contemporary world, Flock highlights remaining pockets of young people who have no opportunity to establish their own identity and destiny against outdated institutionalisation.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.