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Review: Human Activity at KXT Broadway

Review by Nola Bartolo


The world premiere of Katie Pollock’s play Human Activity presented by bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company and Nuatanki theatre is currently playing at KXT Broadway. Human Activity is the sequel to bAKEHOUSE’s Jatinga - a play inspired by the lives of the girls trafficked into sexual slavery in Kamathipura. This is Katie Pollock’s response to that. This performance certainly left me with questions and reflections that I am still pondering. A very clear sign that the playwright, producers, director and actors have all done a very good job of bringing to life this complexity.


The stage is set with gold ornate birdcages all hanging from the ceiling at various heights and an empty stage. The story is set the day after the Sydney Lindt Café Siege at Martin Place in 2014. The play delves in the aftershocks of the Lindt Café shootings. A young woman running from violence arrives at Angel Place with $480 stuffed in a sock at the bottom of her bag. A woman who is homeless ekes out an existence on the mean streets of the city. An elderly couple continues a quest to understand the loss of their daughter. A security guard tries to restore some semblance of order. Their lives intersect at Ground Zero, at the dark heart of the city, with shattering consequences.


There is a lot going on and quite a few story lines being performed. The large cast play various roles including native Australian birds who have left due to the chaos of city life. The cages to me reflect the disturbing pain of women who are caged in their own domestic lives. The director Suzanne Millar did an extraordinary job of bringing the complex story line to stage without too much confusion on the audience’s part.


On the night I saw the show Dad played by Phillip Lye had script in hand, but this did not take anything away from the performance. He did a wonderful job regardless of this unfortunate circumstance. The actor that played the security guard Atharv Kolhatkar could have shouted less and that would have given his character more light and shade. However, this may have been performed this way to represent just how everyone was on ‘high alert’.


The standout performance for me was from the homeless woman sleeping on the streets Jana played by Katherine Shearer. She was exquisite in her energy and delivery. The monologue she delivers at the end to Arti played with empathy by Trishala Sharma was truly one I will not easily forget. This was the moment I sat forward and was completely lost in her energy. The line “You’re in a war zone disguised as your living room” gave me goosebumps and there was a harsh silence amongst the audience at this very moment. Sharma and Shearer worked beautifully together and to me were like mirror images of each other. There were differences but the similarities were glaringly obvious.


Apart from the fact that there were a lot of story lines going on that were sometimes hard to follow, Human Activity is a courageous story that absolutely needs to be told. The study of how we as a human race respond and react to life changing situations especially the topic of domestic violence is extremely relevant and needs to be brought out of the dark and into the light. Congratulations to all involved. It is well worth seeing. Congratulations also for representing Australians of diverse migrant backgrounds. This always makes me happy and is not always the case in some Theatre companies.


Human Activity is playing at KXT Broadway and Riverside Theatre till October 8, 2023.

Image Supplied

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