Saturday 1 June 2024

Multiple Bad Things review

In Back to Back's new work, Multiple Bad Things, three employees in a warehouse spend their day putting together an ambiguous structure. As they complete this task, they take part in conversations and present behaviours focusing on inclusion, equity and diversity.

As you walk into the theatre, you are instantly captivated by Anna Cordingley's set design. Erected like a triptych, a computer workstation is positioned on one side, with numerous animal figurines decorating the entire desk. On the other side rests an inflatable flamingo float. In between the two are a variety of gold-coloured pipes and tubes in a half-finished construction that dominates the stage. Cordingley's aesthetic skill extends to the costuming of the cast, with Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring and Scott Price appearing in distinctive orange uniforms and Bron Batten dressed in pink, looking like she's just stepped out of a Barbie movie.

Laherty enters the stage first, preparing us for some of the triggers we are about to see and hear with this work. He then proceeds to move to the workstation where he plays solitaire and watches videos on his computer, including a whole bunch of animals preying on and devouring other animals. Eventually the other three appear and begin working on assembling the sculpture.

As this is done, the trio debate multiple bad things through statements and ideas. Misogyny, sexism, ableism, racism and other bad things are all spoken off. These are also explored through the performers' own bodies and physicality. Price, the only male of the three, spends most of his time lying on his flamingo and shouting at his colleagues. The women are left to do the brunt of the work, with Mainwaring, a disabled woman, completely ignored by her colleagues when she repeatedly asks for assistance in bringing the pieces together.

Zoƫ Barry's sound and composition and Richard Vabre's lighting aurally and visually capture the opinions expressed and allow the audience to respond to them with deep consideration on how Multiple Bad Things plays out in the real world. Theatre may not be real, but what is being discussed is very much so.

As the only non-disabled worker in this warehouse, Batten's proclamation that she too is diverse begins to reveal the darker undertones of the production, and how those at the top will always look for ways to stay there any way they can. Despite the issues that are raised and this slowly creeping grab for power, there is no build up to anything of substance or intrigue. A number of blanket statements are made but what they eventuate to is disappointing. There's a need, and an urge for more to happen from all that we are seeing.

Nevertheless, Multiple Bad Things remains a challenging work that demands its audience to think about how equity and equality actually works in our society and who is benefiting from current systems that are meant to support the minorities and those that are more vulnerable.


Venue: Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St, Southbank
 until 9 June | Tues - Wed 6:30pm, Thurs - Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm
60 minutes
 $20 - $80
Malthouse Theatre

Image credit: Ferne Millen

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