Review by Cynthia Ning
It’s 2012 Perth, Western Australia and the mining industry is booming with money, promises and problems.
Jordan Shea (Co-Writer) opens with a beautiful acknowledgment to the cast, crew and traditional custodians of the land with a tribute to the tragic passing of Cassius Turvey and fight for justice for him and his family.
Under dimmed lights, we see the appearance of two characters walk silently together, navigating the intimate stage purposefully as if in a maze as they take their place in the story.
The diligent and kind Bhing (played by John Gomez Goodway) breathes life into the space by captivating the audience with his humour, complaining of the torturous “Soothing Sounds of the Orient, Volume 2” while folding clean sheets and answering calls for bookings at Golden Touch Massage.
The jokes come thick and fast with each phone ring. It is made clear that the massage parlour does not offer ‘Happy Endings’. This puts to rest of any inclination that the story will be led astray by the stigma placed on Asian massage centres and their masseuses.
Scott (played by Shaw Cameron) comes in with a strong presence of a blokey tradie, rough around the edges and speaks abrasively to Bhing trying to establish his hierarchy and power. He reveals the most skin but has the highest emotional walls that prevent the audience from getting too close. It is only under the guidance of the skilful and healing hands of Bhing that he softens and releases his stresses.
The multitalented musician/actor (Alec Steedman) accompanies the two with his assortment of instruments and lends his voice as previous loyal clients of Bhing. They provide a playful and soothing element as the third storyteller.
The familiar jokes and banter get the audience laughing, easing us to a false sense of belief that this won’t end in violence. Clever use of dialogue and casual racism in passing help break up the tension and serious tones that come with each interaction between Bhing and Scott.
The beautiful movement choreographed (by Lauren Nalty) is reminiscent of Tai Chi and contemporary dance. The intense use of body language emphasised Scott’s physical pain and mental struggle with his personal demons. The meticulous details from the authentic ethnic accents to strategic use of props (Soham Apte) and realistic dressing style (Jessi Seymour) drives the narrative home.
Lighting is striking (by Saint Clair) and pacing is well done under careful direction (Kenneth Moraleda). Its delivery was meant for intentional shock value, and this had a profound impact. Especially to someone like myself who has experienced firsthand racism name calling and discrimination.
The entangling relationship between Scott and Bhing blooms unexpectedly like Native Morning Glory, toxic and envelopes you its vines. The tenderness in each intimate moment and fight scene (Tim Dashwood) made me feel deep empathy towards Bhing and Scott respectively. The trust each actor had for one another and courage to bare themselves in a vulnerable way through their characters made everything true and believable.
To experience their desire of belonging from all walks of life, is to reflect on ourselves and understand the need for connection with those around us.
One Hour No Oil demonstrates that it is necessary to see from multiple perspectives. Particularly as we consider which places we occupy within our community.
A must see for all Australian adults. This is diverse storytelling at its best.
On Hour No Oil plays at Kings Cross Theatre, Sydney, 29th of October until 5th of November 2022.
Image Credit: Clare Hawley