Saturday 6 August 2022

Rebel review

Playwright Fleur Kilpatrick did not set out to write Rebel, but this serendipitous act has resulted in a warm-hearted play that shares the stories of senior climate and environmental activists. From Queensland to Western Australia and to New South Wales, Kilpatrick met and spoke with several "rebels" and discussed how and why they were doing what they were doing to protect the planet while also bringing up the idea of what makes someone a rebel.

Being familiar with Kilpatrick's writing and having met her a few times, you could mot have picked someone better than Ayesha Tansey to portray her - except if Kilpatrick herself had taken to the stage. Tansey convincingly displays Fleur's sensitivity to the world around her and her curiosity about people and community. She brings forth Fleur's caring nature and kindness as she explores the state of the planet and how hope is not completely lost.

Tansey is the only actor on stage as Fleur chats with these activists, with the rest of the cast performing via pre-recorded voice work. In some regards, Jason Lehane, Christina Page, David Reed, Meme Thorne and Patrick Frost have the most demanding job of all in ensuring that the intimacy created by Tansey's performance and Dann Barber's cosy set design is maintained. Under director Cassandra Fumi's watchful eye (and ear), the work delivered by the digital cast perfectly captures the passion, humour and resolve of the Springbrook residents protecting cow paddocks, of the Grandparents of the Extinction Rebellion, and of the Knitting Nannas Against Gas and Greed.

Gabriel Bethune's creative sound and AV design has these recordings coming from various speakers around the stage, as if we are sitting with these people and being part of the conversation. And that's what Rebel does so well. Yes, it is verbatim theatre and about Fleur's interactions, but Kilpatrick's style and approach to the production, including some gentle audience participation and an extremely delicious dhal curry, guarantees we are not a passive audience.

Through these exchanges, we are encouraged to be rebels. It is never too late to speak out when we see things are not right or not as they should be. We need to care for our environment for the generations to come. Rebel stokes a fire in our heart and inspires us to question our own activism and how we can contribute to saving the world, no matter what period of our life we are in. We all play a role in this. 

Rebel was performed at the Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, Monash University on 3 August.

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