‘Anatomy of a Suicide’ was moving.
There was electric energy on opening night at the Brisbane premiere of ‘Anatomy of a Suicide’. Complete with speeches, cocktails and passionate storytelling, it is clear Metro Arts’ new home in West End is fast becoming a bustling hub of creativity.
‘Anatomy of a Suicide’ tells the story of three women’s strength as they navigate their interwoven journeys with mental health. It showcases the impact of intergenerational love and trauma, examining how these scars influence relationships and the business of day to day life.
Alice Birch’s script was cleverly styled where scenes were performed simultaneously with overlapping dialogue, creating a full stage and soundscape. This creative style was also reminiscent of Andrew Bovell’s writing in ‘Like Whiskey on the Breath of a Drunk You Love’ in that it also utilised a carry-on of the same word to shift between the storylines. At times, it was very difficult to understand the specific spoken words in each storyline, which felt overwhelming. However, this worked in favour of creating the uneasy atmosphere of the show. Once it became clear there was no possible way the audience would be able to understand every word, it became much easier to relax into gathering the gist of each storyline and the rhythm of the show. It also benefited the audience to focus on one particular storyline and catch snippets of the others. At times, dialogue in other scenes would pause if there was a key piece of information in one setting, to make sure the audience would not be lost among the plot points. These technicalities provided an array of challenges to stage, but director Catarina Hebbard made a wonderful feat of realising three stories at once.
Hebbard fully utilised Metro Arts’ new performance space, with much of the action taking place on the stage in front of the audience, but also the balconies to the side. This worked extremely well in the collaboration scenes, as the spacing made the worlds clearer and further immersed the audience. Hebbard also incorporated technology (with audiovisual design by Jeremy Gordon) to help set the scene by having a screen above the stage that was activated in transitions. Before the first scene for each woman, the display showed the year (which spanned from the 1970s to the 2030s) and images of the women’s faces. The set itself was clean and white, creating a timelessness enriched with each woman’s storyline as they brought on appropriate props.
The three leading ladies, Elise Greig, Rebecca Alexander and Zoe Houghton as Carol, Anna and Bonnie, respectively, gave truthful and heartbreaking performances as they grappled with the realities of trauma and accepted who they were because of it.
As the first generation of this trio, Carol, Greig encapsulated the pressure of projecting the perfect 1970s housewife. She clearly communicated her desperation and showed believable chemistry with her husband John (Daniel Murphy). Murphy delivered a sincere performance, portraying the struggle of not knowing how to help the woman he loves and the helplessness that comes with this conflict against his place in the classic patriarchal structure.
As Carol’s daughter, Anna, Alexander demonstrated how trauma can explicitly result in self-destructive coping mechanisms. Anna is introduced coming down from a high in hospital and her very definite character arc allowed Alexander to showcase her talent as the story progressed with her desire to be loved. Birch’s writing developed a refreshing perspective on supportive men; Stephen Geronimos as Anna’s partner, Jamie, was a grounding character for her character and her story.
Finally, Houghton delivered an intelligent portrayal of Bonnie, showing how trauma controls trust. Bonnie’s dilemma between embarking on a relationship, letting go of the home that holds so much hurt and existing in the now was understated and passionate. Houghton’s final image in the show was powerful.
Aside from the three women, ‘Anatomy of a Suicide’ was very much an ensemble show, with a lot of the talented supporting cast members playing multiple roles. A standout performance came from Jodie Le Vesconte, who played a variety of characters, including Bonnie’s love interest. Vesconte was an intelligent actor who lifted each scene and perfectly adapted to every character. She should be highly commended on her impeccable comic timing and was a necessary and enjoyable presence throughout the show.
Triona Giles provided a youthful presence and her scenes as the child were a refreshing contrast to the darkness of many moments, providing humour and innocence.
‘Anatomy of a Suicide’ is a confronting insight into the impact of everyday ramifications of intergenerational trauma. However, it was also a positive reminder that love constantly exists, no matter what has happened in the past.
‘Anatomy of a Suicide’ plays at the New Benner Theatre, Metro Arts until Saturday, 29 May 2021. Tickets are available on the Metro Arts website.