‘Sometimes It’s Hot Like The Sun’ was kaleidoscopic.
It’s the apocalypse, but not as you know it, in this psychedelic, digressive, and unpredictable new Australian play.
‘Sometimes It’s Hot Like The Sun’ is a piece of contemporary theatre co-written by Meanjin/Brisbane playwrights Madeleine Border and Honor Webster-Mannison. The play was originally performed as part of the Festival of Australian Student Theatre at La Boite in 2018 and then published in 2020 by Playlab. The one-act play, produced by Imperfect Creatives, is now in its post-publication premiere.
The play avoids both familiar dystopic ground, and traditional dramatic structure, featuring a mix of vignettes, recollections and confessions over a two-way radio, and channelling climate anxiety in this unique arrangement. The last two survivors of a planet-wide disaster lead audience members into vivid recollections of previous life, reflections on femininity, and reactions to the chaos of the apocalypse from the darkness of their hiding spot. Two women are joined on stage by a shapeshifting third figure, who comments, provides a foil, and anchors the play in a sense of the magical and unstable.
Contributing effectively to this sense of the otherworldly is an impressive set and design; Jack Kelly is listed as technical director and co-producer, supported by Campbell Lindsay (also a producer). Old televisions, playing a mix of static, internet videos and retro footage were suspended in and alongside an old tree in the centre of the stage. The tree lit up and pulsated with multi-coloured fairy lights, connected with wires above. This made for a striking visual centrepiece and created a compelling meeting point for nature and urban-digital decay.
Quality sound was also utilised in the production; with static, an atmospheric ocean soundtrack, and an orchestral finish to the show among some of the well-employed uses of audio. It seems that increasingly, independent theatre groups are no longer afraid to soundtrack a bit more boldly, almost with ‘cinematic’ zeal, and it worked well for Imperfect Creatives.
Directors Karina White and Zed Hopkins understood the strengths of the freewheeling and intelligent script, delivering a take on the material that doesn’t try to pinpoint or box in that which should be left ambiguous. The humour in the diagloue was found by this production, and images like the drowning barista being peppered by iPads thrown by Zuckerberg from his superyacht were clear and plausible in the world of this play. A highlight was the internet search history sequence, in which tech, actors and good direction combined to showcase the play’s mix of comedy and bite. Completing transitions without partial blackout and even while characters spoke could have played well into the atmosphere of the play, but overall directorial choices were of quality.
Meg Bowden and Brie Jurss were both strong as the survivors, aminated in their vignettes on identity and life before the disaster and believable in their confessional radio calls. As the more confident character, Bowden occupied the space compellingly, while Jurss, producing as well as acting, played off her scene partner well, finding the comedy and playfulness in her own moments. George Harris embodied his varied role in a dynamic way, switching between serious and whimsy in a fashion that felt organic rather than mechanical. Maybe the actors could have been given license to go a little bigger, and play with a difference in energy and presence, but the play isn’t really a character-based drama; it is more of a tapestry.
With ‘Sometimes It’s Hot Like The Sun’, Imperfect Creatives have ultimately delivered a production in which the design and free-flowing direction match the form of the script, and the actors bring energy and gusto to the creation of this world. Their version of Border and Webster-Mannison’s play understands and addresses its anxieties about consumption, capitalism and loneliness, and also its sense of fun and joy in riffing on the mundane, the personal and the strange experiences that form an identity.
‘Sometimes It’s Hot Like The Sun’ performs until Sunday, 14 November 2021 at Elements Collective. For more information visit Imperfect Creatives’ website.