‘Flood’ was atmospheric.
As part of Brisbane’s innovative Anywhere Festival, ‘Flood’ by Chris Isaacs was the encapsulation of the festival’s mantra that theatre can and should be created both anywhere and everywhere.
Presented in the open-air of the University of Queensland’s Great Court, the almost forest-like clearing was the perfect location for Isaacs’ award-winning play, which follows six twenty-somethings as they embark on a reunion camping trip to an undisclosed location in north Western Australia. With the audience sat on a mixture of beanbags, rugs and camping chairs, nestled between citronella candles, this was immersive theatre at its finest.
‘Flood’ is a multi-layered, impactful piece of theatre. On the surface, we follow six friends whose camping trip goes horrifically wrong ending in the murder of an Aboriginal man and the traumatic aftermath of this fateful event. Delving deeper, it is an exploration of Australia’s relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their culture as well as the overall racial bias in modern culture.
In the program, Chris Isaacs encourages the audiences to ask of themselves: “Who do you think you are?”, an overarching question to consider as the play progresses. It was a little unfortunate that there was no physical copy available at the performance, only a digital copy to be downloaded. This meant that some of the audience may have missed out on this immersive aspect of the production.
Production designer, Jack Alfred Kelly’s scenic design was simple yet effective and functional, consisting of just three two-man tents, a camp-fire and some tree stumps. It was his lighting design, however, that was the most creative element of his work. Lighting an outdoor space can be problematic, but in this case, Kelly used the environment to his advantage, choosing to light foliage and surrounding trees in addition to the actors creating a much larger environment in which the actors could perform in.
Although ‘Flood’ is an ensemble work for six strong actors, it required a strong director to ensure that each of the sextets voices and stories were effectively portrayed. Director, Tyler Harlum managed to create a cohesive theatrical work with a sense of balance and equilibrium between all six powerhouse performers. The pacing was always brisk and transitions between scenes were impeccably managed, successfully creating clear differences between locations.
Instantly relatable camping-phobe Vanessa was portrayed beautifully by Matilda Award-winning actress Meg Bowden. Her journey from needy-suburbanite to strong-willed woman was paced well and never over-the-top, creating one of the more positive character arcs of the play.
Playing her onstage boyfriend Steve, Campbell Lindsay’s character was the quintessential laid-back ‘fair-dinkum’ Aussie. Forever straining to do the ‘right’ thing, it was Lindsay’s noticeable turmoil in moments of stress that heightened the audience’s experience, regularly suggesting the polar opposite solution to other characters. These moments of conflict/resolution occurred frequently throughout the 80-minute one-act, but were always balanced and portrayed organically. Lindsay’s descent into isolation was a little cliché but completed his story.
Actress and producer Brie Jurss’ delivery of lovable oddball Frankie commanded the stage at every opportunity, frequently acting as the play’s comic-relief, subtly softening the serious nature of Isaacs’ work. Her quirky characteristics felt natural and innate with her kooky behaviour just enough to remind audiences that everyone has a friend like Frankie.
Mike’s (Brendan Lorenzo) journey from a frat-boy party-goer to a reclusive insular shell of his former self was the most gut-wrenching story of the night. Lorenzo’s delivery of young, fearless, yet arrogant, Aussie was reminiscent of bogan TV at its finest – he wouldn’t be missed on the streets of Bali. Yet, it was his hollow, downtrodden, ‘post-incident’ Mike that provided his finest moments on stage, encouraging empathy from an invested, supportive audience until his final moments on stage. A recent graduate of QUT, Lorenzo will be one to watch out for.
Melbourne-based Sal (Tom Yaxley), who came home to celebrate the New Year with his friends fell into the typical ‘leader’ Boy-Scout role. Never upstaging his fellow actors, Yaxley’s presence perfectly commanded the stage whenever necessary, with the audience unaware if his deep raspy voice was a product of illness or if it was just his ‘phone voice’ (something his fellow friends use to get things in the play). It was his confrontations with his friends that allowed his character to develop through the act, showing his vulnerable side, leading to an impromptu night of passion with Elizabeth, portrayed beautifully by producer Emma Lamberton.
‘Flood’ is the perfect piece of theatre. It asks questions you never knew needed asking. It questions your views, even if you were unaware your views needed questioning. It is a play deserving of many, many more audiences and if you see it being produced – go. You won’t be disappointed.
For information on future productions featured at the Anywhere Festival, go to http://anywhere.is.