Review by James Ong
Promoted as part stand-up, part… many other things, Katie Pollock’s Rough Trade is a hard to categorise, yet altogether moving hour of musings and meditations on life, liberty and slugs that showcases the writer/actor’s ability to be frank in the face of overwhelming uncertainty. Pollock has made a name for self in the Sydney theatre scene as an award-winning playwright, with many of works taking over notable theatres throughout the city. Rough Trade sees her step in front of the curtain this time to opine on her personal experiences and though there are certainly some rough edges that require some sanding, her distinct and authentic voice shines through as she ponders her place in the world. Rough Trade covers quite a broad swathe of topics, but largely aims to capture the essence of middle-aged womanhood, and the niggling sense of neglect, discomfort and unlikely hope for the future that Pollock has experienced in this phase of her life. One key point of solace for her, is found in the eponymous Facebook group, which aims to dismantle the claws of capitalism in our society through increasingly odd trades of goods and services, eschewing the sinister presence and supposed importance of standard currency. Here, Pollock has found a community of likeminded oddballs, anti-establishmentarians and severe woke-ists that find value and meaning in the antiques and leftovers that society typically disregards. However, flowing beneath the surface of self-deprecation and sexually-charged social commentary lays quite a raw and pained history that recolours the entire piece as an elegy for a former life and a warm welcome to the birth of a new one. Pollock’s enthusiastic performance does conjure a somewhat TED X tone, with a slightly unrefined delivery of truth, but interestingly this actually brings an even more authentic lens to her work. We’re not watching a portrayal or depiction of a story, but rather one woman’s conscious and thorough reflections on her life and a genuine stocktake of where she fits into a world that routinely undervalues her particular demographic. Surrounded by barren cardboard boxes and stark white tape, Pollock leans heavily on her talents as a wordsmith to draw her audience in, leaving the question open as to whether she is packing up her sparse living arrangements in the Reginald Theatre, or moving into a lonely, dark new lodging. Either way, Pollock’s (mostly) joyful rumination on her values and purpose in life is a poignant and affecting addition to the 2022 season of Sydney’s most prestigious odds-and-ends arts festival.