Life is just one big competition where only the best will survive and thrive. Being nice will have you finishing last, and who wants that? Presented by the Monash Centre for Theatre and Performance, Death Match is a high stakes competitive look at what it takes to win in life while creating discussion on some big issues around what it means to live.
The cast of six (Stephen Amos, Rebecca Catalano, Elly D’Arcy, Aleeah Gabriel, Earl Marrows, Ursula Searle) are highly committed and bring emotion and truth to their characters as they exercise their way through to success. D'Arcy particularly brings great comedic timing and a nuanced portrayal of uncertainty to her character while Catalano also impresses with the matter-of-fact attitude of hers.
Katrina Cornwell's direction has the cast looking like trained soldiers, running in unison, expressionless yet determined to win at all costs. However, for all the talk the performers make about winning at any cost and how they are constantly trying to one-up each other, once they hit the challenges there's only so many laps or squats we can see before interest starts to wane, and once we know someone will be eliminated each round, Death Match starts to border on predictability. What does keep the work interesting are Morgan Rose's monologues and the conversations the characters have with each other between each round with these nameless people sharing personal stories about their lives.
Grace Ulrich's stage design transforms the space in Malthouse Theatre's Tower Theatre into a brilliant tiny sports arena with an electric blue covering the floors and walls of this makeshift basketball court. Similarly, Amy Porter's costume design of identical sports shorts, jackets and singlets is a reminder that while we may behave and think differently, it is very easy to lose yourself in this rat race. This is further highlighted by having the performers referred to by the number on their uniform than an actual name.
Ultimately, what makes Death Match a unique piece of physical theatre
is also what prevents it from kicking theatrical goals. Despite some energetic performances and thoughtful writing, it's unable to build on the sports arena concept and keep the atmosphere and the action building to an engaging finale.
Venue: Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season: Until 7 October | 7pm
Tickets: $22 Full | $18 Conc
Bookings: Malthouse Theatre
Photo Credit: David Sheehy