Thursday, March 25, 2010


Two Birds One Stone and Griffin Independent present S-27 by Sarah Grochala at the SBW Stables Theatre.

“S-27 won the inaugural Amnesty International Protect The Human Playwriting Award and was first produced at London’s Fin borough Theatre in June 2009.” Sarah Grochala “draws on prison records and interviews with the handful of survivors of Cambodia’s infamous Toul Sleng prison” run by the Khmer Rouge. 1.5 million of that country’s citizens between 1975 and 1979 were murdered. Hem En, the staff photographer at the Tool Slang prison, has had his story told in a documentary, THE CONSCIENCE OF NHEM EN, nominated for the Academy Awards in 2008.

“Look at me. You have to look at me. It’s just a stupid photograph. Isn’t going to hurt you.”

This short play (55 minutes) reveals a staff photographer of a regime called the Organisation, taking the photographs of a series of people, presumably, before their exit out a door to execution. Belonging to this village/city, May (Sarah Snook), faces the terrible task of meeting strangers, relatives and lovers, photographing them and then commanding them to exit through the door. The play asks what would we do, if this was the only way to survive. Would we co-operate?

Caroline Craig, one of Australia’s young, impressive actors, in her debut as a director, has chosen a very good play, found and invited a talented set of actors and other artists to present this play for us in Sydney. On board as Set Designer is Nicholas Dare, who with simple solutions has created both an evocative and (oddly elegant) abandoned classroom, the photographic studio for the Organisation. The lighting design by Mikkel Mynster is extremely supportive of the look and aesthetic of the production which feels, deliberately, I presume, hyper-fashion grunge (Street magazine known as VICE). It has a sheen (the floor) and symmetry (the wall features) that have the measure of Art Direction rather than Reality. (The flickering and ultimate loss of the fluorescent lights, one by one, during the action of the play, were rather an irritant, then a successful metaphor). The Costumes by Lisa Mimmocchi are similarly carefully thought through. The visuals allow the audience to relax, unconsciously, as it deals with a truly horribly intense human predicament and dilemma. The intention of these artists was to take the work away from the specific Cambodian background and place it in an environment that, maybe, has resonances, of one we know, in a futuristic, Australian dystopia. The Sound Design (Jeremy Silver) is subtle with its undertow of menace.

The actors in this company, Sarah Snook, Kelly Paterniti, Adam Roberts, Lynden Jones, Molly Knight, Lizzie Schebesta, Paige Gardiner and Anthony Gooley are a very tight ensemble. The increasing personal dilemma of May is beautifully diagrammed both by the writer and the director, but Ms Snook and Ms Paterniti as the principal, alternate character in the schemata of the text, seem to be hesitating from plunging into the full horror and terror of their character’s predicaments. On the brink but not fully immersed. Given time they may both “GO THERE” but on the night I saw it, they were, seemingly, holding back. The best commitment to the world was the acting from Paige Gardiner (Cousin), Anthony Gooley (Col), and Lynden Jones (Man).

Caroline Craig in her notes in the program to the play says, "S-27 is about the impossibility of love, the inevitability of death and what happens when good people do bad things". In the History of the world and its dramatic testament of events such as the Cambodian incidents, it cannot be repeated too often. An interesting play, embraced by the world Amnesty movement, with the horrible kinetics of its story in this production, still sitting on an edge of full commitment.

Playing now until 10 April.
For more information or to book click here.

1 comment:

Mukinup said...

I'd like to agree with you, but I had enormous difficulty in hearing the wprds of the play. So bad was it, that I could not tell you what the last scene was about. Lest it be thought that another old man is going deaf - and who could argue with that? - I was flanked by two young drama students, neither of whom heard much more than I. It was a full house - overfull (people sitting on the stairs) -, and we were sitting next to an airconditioning unit, but I don't recall its being on. I'm more inclined to think that, Snook apart, the cast seemed untrained, and were no projecting.