Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lethal Indifference

Photo by Prudence Upton
Sydney Theatre Company presents, LETHAL INDIFFERENCE, by Anna Barnes, in the Wharf 1 Theatre, at the Sydney Theatre Company, Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay. 22 February - 10 March.

LETHAL INDIFFERENCE is a new Australian play/monologue by Anna Barnes. This work has been nurtured by the Development Wing of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC), the Rough Draft Program, since 2016.

In a secure (but grey) bedroom in an apartment above ground we meet our protagonist (the Woman), played intriguingly by Emily Barclay, who embarks on telling us the story of a woman, Deema, who is the victim of family/domestic violence, and despite fulfilling all the requirements of the legal system to ensure her own safety, met a more than tragic ending.

The text is almost of a stream-of-consciousness quality, that, seemingly, meanders through other incidents and events that are not part of Deema's story, but as a jigsawed whole, by the end of the 90 minutes or so, make up a cohesive vision of a certain part of our society that needs attention to be paid to it. The collective digressions around the principal narrative thrust of the play underlines other neglects of support for women in extreme vulnerabilities and, perhaps, our own 'vicarious trauma' or 'empathy fatigue' in what is a hideous and insidious growing behaviour of Lethal Indifference.

Emily Barclay gently and without melodramatic offers, under the understated and detailed Direction of Jessica Arthur, draws us into the character of our narrator and the 'population' of her preoccupations. She tells simply, but admirably, with increasing vulnerable sensibility this important story by Anna Barnes, such that the tension of absorption by the audience, I was with, was palpable. It is a performance of some real skill and empathetic humanity that could not be further from the explosive creation of Ms Barclay's murderous Katrina in the 2006 film SUBURBAN MAYHEM, or other of her theatre performances (e.g. STRANGE INTERLUDE; THE SEAGULL). LETHAL INDIFFERENCE revealed the dramatic range of this actor to startling effect.

This is the second play from writer Anna Barnes I have seen: minusonesister was the first, and both reveal a talent of some quality and social conscience and advocacy (although, some small editing could be useful to LETHAL INDIFFERENCE).

N.B. I have just seen the Academy Award Foreign Language film, the Chilean, A FANTASTIC WOMAN, telling the story of a transgender woman (played impeccably by Daniela Vega) enduring the lethal indifference that she encounters from a family and society at large in her adjustment to a tragedy that has turned her world upside down. I highly recommend it as a further provocative experience of the political zeitgeist of the rise of consciousness and the embracement through storytelling, of the contemporary injustices towards women in our community.

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