I’ve seen a lot of good theatre and a lot of shit theatre. This was stunning theatre. I could count the shows I have seen which are better than this on one hand, even if I was missing two fingers. It’s hard to know where to begin with this review, because this production’s capacity for inducing speechlessness was both swift and terrible.
The concept was simple enough, and we’ve been seeing attempts to vigorously revive old, old violent stories at the Malthouse Theatre with varying degrees of success over the past 12 months, but rarely with the ferocity and poignancy that was on display here. Minimalism reigned in the stripped down space; bare lights and visible operators provided the dirty, yet clinical canvas for the typically huge Greek saga to be played out on. A bastardisation of Euripides’ Hecuba and The Women of Troy; The Flayed examined dehumanisation through a correlating series of passionate vignettes and encounters between members of a hellishly talented cast of third year actors in the Monash Bachelor of Performing Arts degree.
The universally competent cast featured a great number of finely nuanced performances, resulting in a series of powerhouse efforts from both leading and supporting roles. Kaitlyn Clare’s towering portrayal of Hecuba, who spent the entire play shackled to the roof, was suitably timeless, grounded by a low booming voice and relentless spirit. The rest of Troy’s fairer sex were on display through the toil of a devastating Tegan Harrod, as a woman forced to surrender her son, and the bat-shit crazy Sam Dowdeswell, who provided shattering bursts of energy between being stuffed in and out of various receptacles. As their chief male oppressors, Tom Molyneux’s sly realist and Nigel Langley’s guttural masculinity shone alongside the excellently affable pairing of the devious Jack Beeby and marginally more compassionate Chris Chosich.
This production was battering and rarely relented, despite having an ample collection of laughs. Song was utilized perfectly by the singers and ensemble as a strange new mode of storytelling around the acts of violence. The stories on show here were deeply moving. I spent the whole second half of the show weeping and the next few hours wanting to continue weeping; I can’t remember the last time I have been so emotionally affected by a stage production. The directors, Robert Draffin and Anna Nalpan, deserve big shiny medals and counselling. This is the kind of show that reminds me why I love the theatre and it will stay with me as long as I have thoughts in my head. Like I said: stunning.