Friday 5 May 2023

small metal objects review

It's been 13 years since Back to Back Theatre performed their acclaimed show small metal objects in Melbourne, one that straddles the line between voyeurism, suspense and contemplation. Taking place in the public area at Federation Square, audience members take their seat on a row of bleachers and are provided with a pair of headphones where we are privy to the conversations happening between four people.

We begin by hearing two friends, Steve and Gary, talking about things that friends talk about, such as eating roasts and updates on relationships. We scan the crowd to locate where these people are, looking for anyone acting strangely, as if they are being watched. There are so many false alarms in spotting the actors. Eventually we see them crossing the road and walking onto Fed Square.

A further two characters are introduced, two executives, who are relying on Steve and Gary to help them with a favour and what ensues is a game of power and standing your ground. The ensemble (Simon Laherty, Brian Tilley, Jim Russell and Genevieve Picot) do well in bringing layered and authentic portrayals of these people and you get a great sense of who these people are in a short amount of time.

The sound design by Hugh Covill is integrated throughout the performance, including the conversations, which at times distracts from being able to focus on what is being said. The realism of what is occurring would have been more impactful had we been able to hear the conversations taking place naturally without a soundtrack attempting to heighten the drama in this instance, or to make us feel a specific way.

With a show like this, we inadvertently also become the audience as passersby stare inquisitively at us, wondering what we are looking at, one even coming to the seating bay yelling “what are they watching?”. By them looking at us looking at the actors, it puts us in the story and in some ways helps us to better understand Steve and Gary's circumstances, both in general and in this specific moment.

The simplistic narrative of small metal objects not only allows you to consider the power dynamics between the four characters, but also cleverly has you thinking about the power dynamics at play in our society. On another scale, Back To Back Theatre has cleverly provided a wonderful opportunity to consider the different stories happening around us all the time, if we would only look for them.


Federation Square, Melbourne.
Season: Until 7 May | 12pm and 4pm
Duration: 60 minutes
$35 Full | $25 Concession
Bookings: Back To Back Theatre

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