Storytellers Festival Review

04.08.22 / 07.08.22

I knew as soon as I felt uncomfortable seats in the theatre, that exciting performances were ahead. I was lucky enough to see three shows throughout the festival: Agency by Xavier Coy, Hiding Lights in Dark Places by Meg Goodfellow, and REALish by Wendy Mocke. Each play was wildly different in writing style and content, and gave an interesting picture of where theatre has been and where it might go.

Photo by Joanna Erskine.

Agency by Xavier Coy, dir. by Jay James-Moody

Agency by Xavier Coy was an entertaining piece of theatre. It oozed good dialogue and great characters. It centred around Wayne confronting his agent about his future with the company. When the longevity of this relationship was questioned, courtesies began to crack and the characters were pushed to their breaking point in pursuit of control.

Mandy Bishop as Robin, Wayne’s agent, was effortlessly funny and brought the audience quite immediately into a lull of soft and consistent laughter. Xavier’s portrayal of Wayne balanced Mandy well, creating a dynamic that remained enjoyable through controlled energy between the characters as they peaked and fell in soft opposition.

As I reflected on the show being part of a new writers’ festival, I wondered what bringing this show to production would add to the piece. Agency was a two-hander set in a simple office with quite a predictable narrative. It was an entertaining show but didn’t quite embody the type of ingenuity that I would love to see in new Australian voices.

Hiding Lights in Dark Places by Meg Goodfellow, dir. by Kim Hardwick

Meg’s work asked me to concentrate. It sat in contrast to Xavier’s work, needing an active audience to piece together these beautifully written worlds into visual constructions.  The prose writing left the stage in wisps of air, as the audience tried to grasp the images before they flew right out of the theatre space. While this was challenging at 9:00 pm on a Tuesday, it opened the space for a new type of theatre and a new audience experience. The two monologues blended more as the piece went on. Starting as seemingly separate narratives, Meg very cleverly begins to thread these two pieces together. She tempts how these pieces would converge, creating a lovely foreboding feeling that was sustained throughout the piece.

Photo by Joanna Erskine.

While this structure was creative, I struggled to connect to both stories fully. At times I felt as if I was pinballing in and out of the stories in rapid motion and missing moments of both narratives. However, I can see this being clarified when this stage reading moves into a production setting and the actors are able to help guide the audience’s focus. This is partly why this piece excites me and I think belongs in a new and exciting writers’ festival. I look forward to seeing where it goes.

REALish by Wendy Mocke, dir. by Amy Sole

This show was hilarious. It had a wonderful young female funny tone to it. Wendy Mocke created the piece as an appropriation of cannoned realism plays. Where an old white man would explore their subconscious for us to re-make repeatedly until we become trained into learning that their subconscious was our own. Wendy Mocke introduced a new voice to this narrative. Her play REALish explored the inner conscious of a Black woman as she deconstructed the phenomenon of Black females possessing Black Magic.

The play was full of real characters, which allowed naturally funny dialogue to bounce between characters out into the theatre walls and back again in rapid succession. Wendy Mocke was great as the throughline of the piece, allowing us to understand her as these different characters in her life began to appear in both reality and constructions of her consciousness. As the play went on, we were given a fuller picture that while Black Magic may exist, it is an exhausting expectation to maintain. Especially in a world where bigots are given the agency to deny their racism and privilege to be believed. Mocke also provides the audience with a bittersweet ending, realising that change has been made but not without the burden of Black people’s time in facilitating it.

While I loved the idea of characters emerging from the midst of the subconscious, at times it felt hard to determine whether they were real or figments. In moments this was very clear and allowed me to enjoy the scene with clarity at other times it hindered my ability to follow the story. In a way, this excites me to see how far the story could expand if given the opportunity to be in production.

Photo by Joanna Erskine.

Overall, there was a buzz to this show. There was a sentiment that someone is creating new and exciting theatre and people showed up for it.

3.5 Stars.

Kate, 20 [she/her]

KXT’s Storytellers Festival played at King’s Cross Theatre from the 31st July to the 7th of August.