Friday 23 February 2024

The Crying Room: Exhumed review

A crying room is a small, soundproof room in theatres and churches where a person can visit if they are feeling emotional but want to continue to be part of the experience via one-way glass and live audio feed without disturbing the rest of the audience. In The Crying Room: Exhumed, performer Marcus McKenzie brings this place to the forefront where he tempts us to spend time in our own private chambers, and to call on and welcome the tears. The show is an extension to the 2020 online zoom production of The Crying Room, conceived during lockdown and had McKenzie dealing with the death of his brother.

As we are ushered into the space, our attention falls on McKenzie writhing and contorting himself up a flight of stairs. Along the hall are closed doors leading to rooms that have been renamed the dying room, the wrying room and the purifying room, which has a red light and bubbling sound emanating from inside. Shortly after McKenzie has disappeared from sight, a blindfolded figure with a black robe and holding incense enters from a room and leads us the rest of the way. From here, McKenzie and his team of creatives put on a show with powerful imagery and highly effective design as he examines his own trauma and grief to losing his sibling.

McKenzie displays incredible skill at establishing bonds with his audience, where although he addresses us as a group, it is like he is speaking to us directly. Even when we are watching him on a screen, he gives a personable and intimate performance where you connect with everything he is saying, expressing and feeling. He presents a confident grasp of a fast-paced and wordy monologue where it’s almost impossible to keep up with him as he sermonises on time, death, grief and mourning. It’s as if we are in McKenzie's head and trying to make sense of everything he has thought about in the last few years and no doubt continues to. There are some profound moments that occur which uniquely impact each person, but there are also some funny, silly moments that McKenzie finds a smart balance of.

While McKenzie might be the lead artist of The Crying Room: Exhumed, it is a deeply considered and fully realised ensemble production by its other creatives and performers. Drummer Maria Moles provides the score and sounds, including a number of ASMR effects and finger-tap drumming that create an unease and urgency to the proceedings. Romanie Harper's red-centric set and costumes, including drapes that hang throughout the space and McKenzie's outfit, symbolic of life, health, love, anger, war and religious fervor, work in parallel with McKenzie's themes without overstimulating the mind. This is further supported by Richard Vabre's exemplary lighting design in setting scene, mood and tone.

The finale of The Crying Room: Exhumed is intense and heartbreaking with a rawness and genuine vulnerability that catches you off guard and sits with you for quite some time after the show has concluded. Shows like this site-specific work at The Substation don’t come around often and not only is The Crying Room: Exhumed a stunning work on time, trauma and memories but it also solidifies McKenzie's exceptional skills and knowledge around language, performance and experimental theatre.


Venue: The Substation, 1 Market St., Newport
until 24 Feb | 7:30pm 
90 minutes
$40 Full | $30 Concession
Bookings: Substation

Image Credit: Damien Raggatt

No comments:

Post a Comment