Sunday 6 August 2023

kerosene and SIRENS review

I remember the first time I watched kerosene and being completely engrossed by Izabella Yena and the ferocity and tenderness she brought to her role. Over a year later, I remember the first time I watched SIRENS and sitting in awe as Benjamin Nichol presented a story that was so rich in detail and raw in emotion. Now for the first time, audiences are seeing these critically acclaimed plays as they were intended to be seen: together. While each story is distinct, unique and stands on its own, what ties the two together is the exploration of belonging, environment and disillusionment and how the harsh realities of life can be difficult to overcome.

Nichol and Yena have collaborated extensively on these projects, with Nichol writing kerosene and Yena performing in it and sharing directing responsibilities. SIRENS has been co-created by the two with Nichol also serving as writer and performer (and direction by Olivia Satchell). They are quickly proving themselves to be a formidable duo in the performing arts scene and it is very exciting to see what they come up with next.

In kerosene, Yena plays Millie, a young woman whose fierce loyalty to a high school friend - "no matter the outcome, no matter the cost" - leads to a devastating event. We see her yearning to hold on to the past as the present begins to unravel around her, the futility of her attempts to create a secure and safe place for herself. By contrast, SIRENS' Eden is desperate for change, to escape the beachside town he lives in. He wants something bigger, something better, something more. His encounter with a new arrival seems like it's going to be his ticket out but his naivety might be blinding him to the truth.

Both plays have a destructive and catastrophic nature running through them and the design team superbly highlights this with Connor Ross' sound composition Harrie Hogan's lighting design. In kerosene, there are instances where Hogan has Yena confined within a square spotlight, hinting at the security she seeks and the prison cell she has put up around her. In SIRENS the lights give Eden more space to move and breathe and point towards the opportunities and adventures he desires. Ross' sound design perfectly captures the personalities of the two, with a primal rapidly racing heartbeat playing during the climax in kerosene and waves crashing intermittently for Eden, symbolic of his need to be free like the ocean.

Nichol has written two powerful works that in turn give way to two powerhouse performances from Yena and himself. They way they give themselves over to their characters and how they speak, move and feel, places an emotional grip over every person in the room and it's not until the lights go down that you are able to release the breath you have been holding in.

Read our interview with Benjamin Nichol ans Izabella Yena ahead of their double bill season of kerosene and SIRENS
Read our review of SIRENS' 2022 Melbourne Fringe Festival season
Read our interview with Benjamin Nichol on SIRENS' 2022 Melbourne Fringe Festival season

Show Details

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: until 12 August | Tues - Sat, 7:00pm and Sun 4pm (kerosene), Tues - Sat 8:15pm and Sun 5:15pm (SIRENS)
Duration: kerosene 50 mins | SIRENS 65 minutes
$65 Full (both shows) | $60 Conc (both shows) | $45 Full (single show) | $35 Conc
(single show)
Bookings: fortyfivedownstairs

Image credits: Darren Gill

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