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Review: Senser at Theatreworks

Updated: Oct 8, 2022

Review by Rowan Brunt

In a dystopian world much is taken from the populace, which within this context the pleasure and feeling of music and art is what we lose. With surmounting pressures on the general population in popular culture and social media what would we sacrifice to feel maybe just a little less?

Senser by Brittanie Shipway is a new Australian play that asks the audience “Would you risk everything to hear a song one last time?”. The piece follows the cheeky and neoliberalist Ava unsuccessfully attempting to assimilate to a new world of censorship and compliance. In an attempt to shelter from curfew they stumble upon a long forgotten underground cabaret bar, littered with relics of the past including instruments, radio receivers and a long forgotten spirit of cabaret.

The piece itself has many hybridities that Shipway is exploring in form and style. The piece has a linear storyline but engages in the world of the underground cabaret creating musical moments for the audience that not only showcase and reinforce our location but act as a tool for Ava to relive nostalgically a moment with her father and yearning for clarity and closure. There is also a fun intersection in the dystopian setting but utopian elements created in the bar as Ava engage with the Kabaret Queen. The cabaret venue itself has queer dramaturgical elements in the revolt against the binary, rejection of the norm and creation of safe havens for those that oppressed and rejected. Layer this with camp quality of characters bursting into song and being sucked into escapism.

Where Shipway along with director Miranda Middleton succeed - a collaboration to keep your eyes on - is the ability to bring many different forms into the space and to use light hearted comedic moments to highlight narrative and draw the audience in. This piece has meta/brechtian elements that appear in the show within a show along with direct addresses, the latter feeling almost a little under cooked as a tool to build character but not necessarily elevating the piece.. From the get go we see the reference to Cabaret and Weimar Germany, with the spiritual Emcee. What could’ve been interesting was to see it placed in a more direct Australian context, like the Tivoli circuit, to further comment on censorship inour locality and issues at home.

The piece shines in the moments of music and song, with actors Luisa Scrofani and Adam Noviello taking stage with a vocal prowess and demanding stage presence that feels other worldly, perfect for this dystopian piece. Scrofani has a delicacy in their strength, navigating the characters' vulnerability with a soaring voice and cheeky asides. Whereas Noviello should be commended for how they flip between two vastly different characters, both of which are fully fledged and committed. From the opening number Noviello makes their mark right centre stage with a proclamation that I am here and don’t you dare look away.

A exploration of how various theatrical styles can serve as different narrative forces is why audiences should see this piece but you will leave loving the piece for the witt and soaring talent of our characters at the centre of the piece.

Image Credit: Daniel Rabin


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