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WHISPER WHITE @ The Fremantle Fibonacci Centre gets 7.5/10


The Strawboat Collective’s
Whisper White @ The Fremantle Fibonacci Centre
Thursday, September 19, 2019

Written and directed by Kerry Bowden
Starring Andrew Dawson, Thomas Desmond, Tatiana Dunn, Rebecca Maynard, Ellin Sears, Nick Stevenson

7.5/10

The sudden return of the winter chill couldn’t reach its frosty fingers into The Fremantle Fibonacci Centre for the opening night of The Strawboat Collective’s new piece, Whisper White. Extremely welcoming, the quirky, cosy venue with its roaring fireplace and the added nice touch of cushions on every seat was the perfect escape from the cold night.

This piece of meta-fictional theatre centers around Marcus (Nick Stevenson), and his trip down memory lane. With his flashbacks mostly relating to one fateful Australia Day party at his friends Bryce (Andrew Dawson) and Ruby’s (Ellin Sears) place, this venue was a great choice. The way it was set up, it was like walking into someone’s alfresco area which made it feel like we were right there in Bryce and Ruby’s backyard with the revelling mates, among them rather than in a stuffy theatre with the fourth wall oppressively intact.

After a life-changing Australia Day, Marcus (Stevenson) has a chat with the audience, reflecting on his life since then while slowly explaining the story of what exactly happened. The show switches between Marcus’ monologues and his flashbacks which are played out by all of the performers. It seems like a simple enough dramatic device, but pulling it off is easier said than done. Writer and director Kerry Bowden and dramaturg Michael McCall did a splendid job with making these transitions smooth and natural. It was the tiny touches that really did the trick, for example, during Marcus’s monologues, the rest of the cast would go downstage right, sitting down in an area that looks like a delightful outdoor setting, which made it seem like they were still at their Australia Day gathering, but just having drinks somewhere else for the time being. The lighting was simple yet effective, playing up the outdoor party vibe with a minimal design, while the soft warm choice of light added to the memory or dreamlike effect of the flashbacks.

A highlight of this show is the wonderful chemistry between the entire cast. When sat around the table, drinking, chatting, arguing about politics or telling jokes, they all really seemed like mates who have been in each other’s lives for ages. The dialogue was completely natural and the timing by all the actors spot on, right down to the timing of the start of each new scene as they smoothly transitioned from a monologue to a flashback scene.

While a play centering around an Australia Day gathering between friends could seem like quite a lighthearted premise, this show deals with some very important topics that are part of the Australian discourse today. Themes include the discussion around whether Australia Day should be celebrated on a different date, foreign policy and Australia’s attitude towards refugees and immigration, gender issues, and binge drinking. These are pretty heady topics but Bowden has written a script that deals with them in an honest way, the way that mates in Australia today actually do debate these issues, while managing to weave moments of true emotional connection and lightheartedness into the narrative without belittling these topics.

Whisper White is a glimpse into the conversations between friends in contemporary Australia, delivered in the way that Australians have these conversations – with lots of drinks and banter.

MELISSA KRUGER

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