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Review: PLAYLIST at the Sydney Opera House

By Rosie Niven

At the Sydney Opera House Studio Theatre, five women take the stage. They’re powerful, they’re excited to share stories with us, they’re ready to dance. We don’t know it yet, but they’re also really, really angry.

Playlist has come to the Opera House for Festival UnWrapped after a highly successful run at PYT Fairfield, a company known for its new, innovative and inclusive works, particularly led by collaboration and devised works. If it’s coming from PYT Fairfield, you can be sure that you’re getting a work that allows the youth of Australia to have their own voice. Playlist is no exception.

Part autobiography and part dance party, performers Ebube Uba, May Tran, Tasha O’Brien, Mara Knezevic and Neda Taha share their stories with us of growing up in Western Sydney, all the while engaging in a discussion about the place of feminism in modern music and pop culture.

Playlist is a refreshingly honest piece of theatre, and it’s empowering to see young women taking up space and having open conversations about their identities without filter. This is a work born from the stories of these five women, and they’ve chosen to share with us incredibly personal moments in their life. From ways in which Tran’s bipolar disorder impacts her everyday life, to how Uba feels pressure to like certain music because of her heritage, we are welcomed into the world of each woman with open arms. The way in which their stories are delivered is heartfelt and genuine, and from the moment the first performer speaks to the audience we immediately feel like we’re talking to a friend, one that knows us really well. These women are not only telling their stories, they’re telling ours too. A stripped back performance like this means that every emotion displayed on that stage feels all the more real - we know how hurt these women are by everything that happens to them, and many of us in the audience begin to realise that we’re hurting just as much.

Although each performer’s experiences are completely unique, there is a powerful cohesion in the group, reinforced by Larissa McGowan’s mesmerising choreography. With nods to different cultural dances and ways in which women’s bodies are consumed in pop culture, each woman radiates strength, pride and defiance through their movements. Paired with choreographed movements in which each performer rolls a luminescent triangle across the stage, sometimes to stand individually and sometimes to become part of a greater puzzle, we are reminded of the importance of unity amongst women, and the importance or lifting each up rather than pushing each other down. As Uba says, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

From start to finish, the energy of this piece feels electric and contagious. I find myself dancing along to songs, and smiling so widely my face hurts when I get to see moments of women being unapologetically themselves. This is only exacerbated by the phenomenal soundtrack and lighting reminiscent of a pop concert.

Playlist is fearless, funny, and full of self-love. It is a 70-minute act of passionate women taking a stand. It is a space for women to swear, scream, and be angry. It is a piece that we are not seeing enough of in theatre. Playlist is not to be missed, and with women like these 5 on stage, I am so excited for the future of contemporary performance in Australia.

Photo Credit: Daniel Boud

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large


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