‘X-Stacy’ is sensational.
Where do you find your ecstasy? That’s the central theme pinning together Queensland playwright Margery Forde’s seminal work, ‘X-Stacy’. A family’s world-shattering loss is set against a dizzying juxtaposition of faith, culture, and community.
In an immersive, sweat-drenched haze of neon, bass, and swirling light, Moreton Bay Theatre Company brought ‘X-Stacy’ blazing to life. The audience is swept into the guise of the mid-90s rave story from the moment they walk into the foyer. With walls covered in posters for rave’s, milk crates, VIP wristbands, glow sticks and stamps upon entry, the energy in the venue is contagious. Ushered into the theatre on a rope line with a leather-clad bouncer sneering at you from behind sunglasses, the experience is one to be remembered, and the attention to detail is, frankly, extraordinary.
Director Elodie Boal keeps the experience going as you enter the theatre, stepping in to find every wall covered in black plastic and covered in neon scrawl with phrases like “Stacy was here” giving it a show specific, personal feeling. The music is already thumping as you enter, and patrons are handed glow sticks and encouraged to participate in a pre-show dance party.
Boal has gone to great lengths to create a world that is entirely familiar and crackling with vitality. It is impressively done, and her ability to draw every detail of the world together creates a space that is breathtakingly real. Boal draws the audience along at a swift pace, pushing the cast through their paces relentlessly, while still managing to work in some beautiful slower moments, allowing every to breathe and absorb what they’ve witnessed. These dream-like states are some of the highlights of the show, and it would be interesting to see them used more, especially to cover some of the scene changes, they are so hauntingly beautiful and offer a great opportunity to explore unseen moments of the script.
The technical elements of this production shine, most notably the sound design by Mal Boal, which is simply awe-inspiring, and underscores almost the entire show (even the silences feel curated) from start to finish. Lighting Design by Bruce Noy and Set Design by Tom Antonio are simple, yet incredibly elegant, and the pulsing light of the Crystal is cleverly thought out.
Grief and guilt-ridden, Ben (Connor Hawkins) is exquisitely tortured for most of the production. Hiding behind a film of drugs, lowered expectations, and party whistles, Hawkins brings forth a Ben that is so tortured he can barely function. This smashes up against the earlier scenes of Ben, happily playing with his sister on her birthday, or even dancing in his underwear while gargling a Berocca. The rare moments of happiness are swiftly ripped apart, and Hawkins takes us all down his own personal rabbit hole, full of shame, and grief he can’t find words for. It is acting of the highest nature.
As voyeuristic eyes-of-the-audience Zoe, Katie Clarke is grounded and strong. She dives headlong into the carefully grown-over nooks and crannies of Ben’s life and happily plants seeds of expectation and hope there. Waiting patiently over a cup of tea for them to take root and bring him back out of his shell. Clarke’s Zoe is so subtly rounded out, equal parts easy-going, and hiding some carefully curated deep pain, a quiet commentary on drug-abuse that is much needed in this production. However, it is the steadfast faith that Clarke gives Zoe, a belief in “the scene” and in her music, her talent, and herself, that is the most notable aspect of her performance. When all other parties are desperately seeking something to cling to, Clarke’s is like a beacon of peace and comfort.
As the frantic, worried, hollowed out Anne, Alison Telfer-McDonald is frankly a revelation and her performance is easily the best thing about this production. The change between strict, but loving mother, and a woman who is a shell, dying on her feet, exhausted but unable to stop moving forward is harrowing. There is a gorgeous fragility to her Anne, and at any moment Telfer-Mcdonald appears as if she might shatter into a thousand pieces, especially if she gets the absolution, and love, that she so desperately craves. It is a heartrending piece of theatre, and worth the price of admission alone.
Ruby Sanders as Stacy is the perfect casting choice. She easily handles the playful 14-year-old Stacy and seems to revel in the moments of Stacy’s undoing, swinging wildly out of control in a way that is horrifyingly easy to watch. Her handling of the now slightly dated dialogue, made almost a forgotten language between her and Hawkins’ Ben, something you’d not understand if you didn’t grow up in the family, is wonderfully executed. Additionally, their comfortableness together on stage (in fact not just Sanders and Hawkins, but the entire ensemble) is what takes this production from great to extraordinary.
As the totally wicked DJ Fergus, Arun Clarke is commanding and captures both the god-like and the human about the character. He inhabits a wasteland of toxic privilege, hitting on anything that moves and acting as the gatekeeper to the turntables but it is Clarke’s vulnerability and fear that makes this performance so captivating. In retrospect, they are there in every moment of bravado and bigotry, churning under the surface and steadily eating at Fergus. Clarke is to be commended for a performance that could very easily have been a trope but was so much more.
In many ways, the character of Jenna (Ebony Hamcek) is a world apart from everything else. She clings to Stacy, and then to Fergus, trying to find guidance and forgiveness and to put her mistakes behind her. Hamacek’s performance is a measured balance of hollowed guilt and fear, and annoyingly obtuse teenager. It is a fine line and she plays it with finesse.
In the small role of Father Paul, Trent Sellars makes a significant impact. Giving a powerful portrayal of a man flawed, and in his own way guilt-ridden by his own inaction, Sellars makes a meal of every moment he is onstage and lets Paul’s often thoughtless humanity shine through. This makes an excellent springboard for the underlying guilt, and lines that may be easily thrown away are layered with hidden meaning and pain. His accent work (this incarnation of Paul was Irish) was flawless and added a dimension to the play.
‘X-Stacy’ is a visceral, heartbreaking, necessary piece of writing and MBTC’s production does it such outstanding justice. There was audible crying throughout the audience as the play rocketed towards its inevitable conclusion, so it would be worth smuggling a handkerchief into this dance party. It is also worthwhile, if you’re so inclined, to get a VIP ticket, to make the most of your experience, especially the cast and crew Q&A at the end of the show.
This is a must see piece of theatre. For its age, it is shockingly relevant in today’s society. Make the trek out to the NeverLand Theatre and experience this powerful production.
Performing for a strictly limited season, ‘X-Stacy’ is on stage until Sunday, 2 June 2019. For more information or to purchase tickets go to https://mbtc.com.au.
Disclaimer: Cast / Production Members working on this show also work for Theatre Haus, but rest assured, we always take steps to ensure our reviews maintain their integrity and are free from bias.