Morgan Owen sweetens difficult conversations with laughter

2 June 2022

Although long and densely packed, Morgan Owen’s new play strikes a harmonious balance between weighty subject matter and comedy, writes Kim Balfour.

SIT! (Or I’ll Make You Sit), Morgan Owen ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 31 May 2022 ·

In her latest book, Body Work, Melissa Febos says authentic writing should awaken us to our “ecstatic, uncomfortable, freaky, transcendent, holy realness… undoing the narratives we’ve been taught about ourselves”.

Writer Morgan Owen’s new play SIT! (Or I’ll Make You Sit) does just that, albeit with a spotlight on society’s darker and less mainstream narratives. Directed by Izzy McDonald, SIT! uses satire to deconstruct and challenge assumptions on topics that range from trauma and abuse to polyamory and relationship attachment styles.

SIT! opens with Blair (Owen) breaking up with Dom (Ben Sutton), a year before the main action of the play. Dom threatens suicide over the breakup, and so begins the play’s cycle of coercion and entrapment, where everything is not as it seems, and a darker secret is lurking in the shadows.

We then watch Ainsley (Ebony McGuire) and her latest internet fling, toying with themes that include financial extortion couched in sexual references. Gaslighting, depression, trauma, PTSD, and twisted apocalyptic prisoner fantasies also feature, but to go into detail would lead to spoilers.

We later see Ainsley, a lawyer assisting abuse survivors, and Blair, a psychology student constantly citing attachment style theory, in a romantic relationship. Before they move in together, however, Ainsley wants to meet Blair’s ex, Dom. Blair is extremely nervous, but nonetheless a dinner party is organised. Designed by James McMillan, the dinner party set – with a décor comprised of prison-like steel bars – is where the main action takes place, building to a climax of disturbing revelations.

During the main dinner scenes, the cast members do an excellent job of creating a claustrophobic atmosphere filled with chaos and secrets. The dinner party revelations are given yet more context through a series of cleverly constructed puzzle piece flashbacks, revealing an emotional web of personal agendas none of the characters ever seem able to escape.

Peppered throughout these scenes we meet Chekhov the dog (Alicia Osyka), who believes they are in competition with Blair for Ainsley’s love and affection. Using stand-up comedy format, Osyka provides some laugh-out-loud moments, sharing worldly relationship wisdom through the eyes of a pet doggo.

SIT! has something to say about trauma. Owen says she has drawn from and “interrogated” her own experiences, in addition to consulting a psychologist who has experience working with trauma and abuse survivors – it’s easy to see how this research has shaped the unravelling of the play’s narrative.

Owen also challenges a variety of damaging though widely held beliefs, such as the “perfect victim” myth, or how a survivor of abuse should look and behave. SIT! contains scenes where disbelief surrounds survivors who cannot clearly remember the details of their abuse, or did not immediately report the crime. It’s a reflection of the troubling era we currently find ourselves in, one that has been brought to public attention by the progressive #metoo movement.

SIT! is a ravenous subject-heavy work that attempts to cover a lot of ground, but manages to weave all these ideas into a cohesive narrative. Owen strikes a harmonious balance between the play’s weighty subject matter and comedic satire, keeping the audience engaged throughout the entire interval-free ninety minutes.

Izzy McDonald’s direction has the cast bouncing off each other’s energy beautifully, delivering smart, pacey dialogue that catapults us headlong towards the play’s unexpected conclusion.

SIT! may represent a relationship hellscape, but, as Owen says, “difficult conversations are best sweetened by laughter”.

SIT! Or I’ll Make You Sit continues at The Blue Room Theatre until 4 June 2022.

Pictured top is a promotional photo for ‘SIT! Or I’ll Make You Sit’, featuring Morgan Owen. Photo: Nicolee Fox

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Author —
Kim Balfour

Kim Balfour is writer and former professional dancer, who has danced with companies such as WA Ballet and Sydney Dance Company. Kim has worked as a freelance writer for over 15 years, including the role of dance writer for The West Australian newspaper. In 2020, Kim was selected as a writer-in-residence at the Centre for Stories, and is currently writing a work of creative nonfiction on gender identity and expression in dance. As a child Kim was sometimes seen sitting on a gently spinning playground carousel, deep in thought, staring at her feet as they dragged along the ground.

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