This event has finished

Hot. Sad. Tender. Clever. Emotional. That's how the playwright describes it

It has been some kind of all-round year for Zoey Dawson. First she directed an impressive all-female Romeo and Juliet at fortyfivedownstairs, then starred in MKA's Edinburgh-bound reprise of The Economist, and is now popping up as the playwright behind The Unspoken Word is "Joe".

Joe is billed by Dawson as an autobiographical take on a miserable break-up. This somewhat paltry premise is made fresh, however, by the relatively convoluted meta-trick of beginning the play as a directed reading, with the actors all ranged along the stage with their scripts. As the reading progresses, the conflict between Zoey's partner (played by Aaron Orzech) and Zoey herself (played by Nikki Shiels), who are both performing in the reading, escalates, leading to a secondary or projected break-up. This Pirandello-esque mutation opens the play onto some interesting ethical questions about what it means to turn your life into art, and reminding one of that nugget of Auden-apocrypha, "art is born out of humiliation."

With Declan Greene at the helm, director, dramaturg and confident ironist, Joe rarely gets too precious about theatrical illusion, and certainly doesn't waste momentum straightening the logic of its device. Each time the play's multiple levels collapse, as they inevitably do, it simply resets and gallops on.

This light touch is essential, but the real key to the evening's success is in Shiels performance as Zoey. Zoey here is like a black hole. Everything in the play is orientated toward her. She is an abject point of seemingly unlimited humiliation that attracts or seizes all who come within her range, tearing their fixation apart as fodder for still deeper mortifications. Shiels has precisely the kind of flush intensity to realise this weird pitch, which is more than mere overacting. While the rest of the cast operate at a relatively calm level of underdone naturalism, Shiels is always a notch above, glowing with embarrassed pride, a constant source of instability. The tensions within the form accentuate this tension between Zoey and her cast, and, as is often the case with meta-theatre, leads swiftly to violence as Zoey's reading comes to an impressively implosive conclusion.

Joe is also a comment on independent theatre, particularly reflecting on the experiences of young female artists like Dawson and Shiels. Though this is perhaps one of the play's less developed points dramatically, one which seems to have been wound back from previous versions of the play, it does provide an additional level of sophistication, a kind of intellectual face to the raw emotions and obsessions bubbling beneath.

Annie Last and Matt Hickey make fine foils to Shiels' incandescent blushes, while Georgina Capper as "The woman who reads the stage directions" does an excellent job of softly mocking the conventions of directed readings.

By Andrew Furhmann   |   Photos by Sarah Walker

The Unspoken word is 'Joe' details

Address
205 Faraday St, Carlton 3053

Telephone 03 9347 6142

Price $15.00 to $25.00

Date 04 Oct 2012-14 Oct 2012

Open Thu & Sat 6.30pm; Wed, Fr & Sun 8.30pm

Director: Declan Greene

Cast: Georgina Capper, Matt Hickey, Annie Last, Aaron Orzech, Nikki Shiels

La Mama Theatre map

Report a problem with this page

Restaurants and bars nearby

Shakahari

12m - Thirty years ago, Melbourne’s vegetarians were the most put-upon people on...

Yo-Chi Carlton

44m - This self-serve frozen yogurt joint takes variation to a whole new level. As...

DOC Espresso

48m - This local coffee haunt has upped the ante with Italian style breakfasts,...

D.O.C Carlton

83m - Just off Lygon Street is D.O.C. Carlton - a pizza bar that means business....

More restaurants and bars nearby

Other venues nearby

Museo Italiano

34m - Museo Italiano is a partnership between the Italian Historical Society and...

Husk

59m - Stocking an impressive collection of Australian and international women’s...

Readings: Carlton

121m - A Melbourne icon, Readings has long been a gathering place for those on the...

Cinema Nova

123m - Features a whopping 11 screens devoted to new release arthouse and upmarket...

More venues nearby

You might also like

Pub Guide

Pub Guide

Discover Melbourne's best 50 pubs right here, right now

Readers' comments, reviews, hints and pictures

Community guidelines

blog comments powered by Disqus