Review: Rorschach Beast, Bus Boy and Static Drive Co, Tissue ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 20 June ·
Review by Steven Cohen ·
The frailty of human connection haunts both Rorschach Beast’s Bus Boy and Static Drive Co’s Tissue. Written and produced by two sets of talented local writers and production companies and staged for the Subiaco Theatre Festival, this back-to-back billing works to contrast the nuances of friendship with the intensity of sex.
With characters positioned on stage as the audience entered the auditorium, and disembowelled bicycle parts hanging from above, it seemed likely from the outset that Bus Boy would be an immersive experience. And so it was.
Produced by local theatre company Rorschach Beast, and written by and starring Izzy McDonald with a marvellous performance by Sean Guastavino, Bus Boy explores themes such as coming of age, sexual abuse and human connection through the lens of Bus Boy (Guastavino), a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, and a slightly manipulative “older” woman, Gerry (McDonald).
The play is set on Rottnest and local theatre goers will be aware of the juxtaposition of the island’s long and dark history with its reputation as a summer playground. This sits neatly with Gerry’s wild abandon and the super-laced restraint of Bus Boy.
An intense and personal affair, the play carefully treads the line between banal platitude and common cliché. With subtlety and nuance aplenty, the work allows the audience to walk away with all kinds of lessons, from the fragility and danger of youth to the importance of growing up and embracing what it means to be an adult.
Isn’t that what the theatre is for?
The second play, aptly named Tissue, and written by two WAAPA graduates, Timothy Green and Samantha Nerida, differentiated itself from the austere seductiveness of Bus Boy with its overt drama, making for an effective evening’s programming.
Originally staged in 2016 at Perth’s Blue Room Theatre, Tissue borrows from seventeenth century theatre to brazenly confront the themes of contemporary love and sex.
In this gratuitous but sometimes tender and funny exposition of the lives of a young couple, we are greeted by two protagonists (Samjey Hayes and Jess Moyle), and also a fifth business*, played by the talented Ann-Marie Biagioni.
Using sex and relationships, Biagoni’s character probes both protagonists by engaging them in a chorus dialogue. This technique blends old with new, to construct an intense and fertile philosophical disquisition on our enjoyment of pornography, its relationship to our own sexual selves and the inherent instincts to keep these thoughts secret.
Sex and love are on full display. Tissue examines so many affairs of the heart that the play gains a giddy momentum, climaxing in a frenzied amalgam of broken hearts and sweaty bodies. By the end you may feel dizzy and over-sensitized to the whirlpool that is young romance. Although there are only three characters on stage, the play is bursting with humanity, making it appear much larger than it is, and illustrating our own delicate sexuality.
The play charts Alex (Hayes) and Zoe’s (Moyle) romantic relationship. Taking a course that neither intended, the play morphs into a hotbed (no pun intended) of frayed lives. Spanning about twelve months, at a time when youth permits such infinite change, the characters explore the possibility of being someone other than themselves.
From the rapture of love, to the dissonance of porn, Tissue takes us on a wild ride. You can’t help but feel compassion for the characters as they bumble about fearlessly searching for loving attachments, but coming up empty handed.
Two wonderfully synchronistic performances, well worth seeing.
* A “fifth business” is an old theatrical term, used to describe a character who is neither hero nor villain, but nonetheless crucial for revealing the plot.
Pictured top: Izzy McDonald and Sean Guastavino in ‘Bus Boy’.