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Review: The Irresistible at the Studio Theatre, Sydney Opera House

By Liam Shand Egan

The Sydney Opera House’s UnWrapped series opened with ‘The Irresistible’ and after surviving the Thunderdome to get to cover this show, I was left stunned by one of the most intelligent and impactful pieces of theatre that I have seen in a long time.  The show was devised and written in only 4 weeks after being adapted to a stage play and while there are some elements of a traditional sci-fi plot that seem unclear, the technical aspects and broader themes of the genre make this a brilliant spectacle to behold. The show’s main focus is ‘unconscious bias’ and displaying something as abstract as that on stage is so challenging, many would sooner not attempt it. However, the collaborative effort of Zoe Pepper (director), Adriane Daff and Tim Watts (the actors) for the dialogue and characterisation made this a thought-provoking and intense experience that made up for any thematic underdevelopment. All of the characters have a unique voice and mannerisms that feel wholistic and thoroughly enjoyable. Wrapping an analysis of male bias and stereotyping into science fiction shows a strong understanding of the genres intended use by the creative team. The sound design from Phil Downing modulates the actors’ voices into bizarre and disturbing ways making the characters come alive and created moments of comedy and fear in the audience. It was a bold move to give the actors full control over their sound effects and it worked so well I left thinking more productions should do this. The show’s use of the ‘Gak’ (an adhesive putty made for this production) as a thematic signifier is poignant and thought provoking and its use throughout the show is natural and a great added flavour to any dramatic scene. The lighting design, provided by Richard Vabre, suited the show’s ‘softer sci-fi’ elements well and gave some truly beautiful moments that will leave you in awe. Finally, the use of smoke in this play was amazing with it being utilised to both set and obscure scenes. It is so well done that the smoke feels like a third actor on stage. The only complaint I have is that a few of the storylines in the show left me scratching my head as they were either not fleshed out or left me confused as to why they were included. This also extends to some of the characters, including the horrifying ‘Cassie’ who, whilst she gave me chills early on, left me a bit confused during her final scene. The show was developed through a long-form improvisation and whilst it created some incredible characters (and two I want to beat with a heavy object), there were times when the show left the narrative behind in favour of the intense emotions. These are a consequence of the development time but it will not hamper any future audience’s enjoyment of the show.  ‘The Irresistible’ is just that: Irresistible. It is full of intense emotion, comedy with so many layers that discussing it is an evening in itself. Whilst there are some issues regarding the narrative arcs, this show makes up for them by being a visual and auditory tour de force that raises my expectations of traditional theatre going forward.  The show will be playing at the Sydney Opera House Studio until Sunday the 15h.

Image Credit: Dan Grant

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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