The unspoken word is joe - reaction theory collective

‘The Unspoken Word is Joe’ // Reaction Theory Collective

‘The Unspoken Word is “Joe”‘ was intoxicating.

The Reaction Theory deserves a round of applause for their debut show, ‘The Unspoken Word is “Joe”, directed by Ruby Sanders and written by Zoe Dawson. 

Bringing Dawson’s work to life at BackDock Arts, The Reaction Theory presents a striking piece of modern metatheatre. Incorporating post feminine themes by presenting the audience with real women,‘The Unspoken Word is “Joe”’ is a refreshing and layered piece of theatre. One of the many unspoken rules for emerging artists of the past was to never write a piece based on a relationship breakdown. However, we now live in a world with Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal, so this rule was made to be broken. 

In ‘The Unspoken Word is “Joe”’, Dawson doesn’t just break the rule, but rather shoots it in the head and dances on its corpse. Sound distressing? Yeah… it is. But it is also wildly hilarious, raw, and honest. It is a play which presents the shimmering technique of metatheatre. The narrative arc centres around a play-reading of a piece “by Zoe Dawson” (performed by Rachel Nutchey), based on a relationship breakup. However, this play is far more than that. Amongst the madness of the script, comedic characters and stage action, The Reaction Theory makes a clear statement about an artist’s right to fail and truly encapsulates what happens when actors are no longer safeguarded by a script.

 While the script was originally showcased for Melbourne’s community theatre scene, the play presents the challenges and difficulties all emerging artists face. As such, The Reaction Theory has taken artistic license to localise the play. With the collaboration of Director, Ruby Sanders and Creative Producer, Egan Sun-Bin, The Reaction Theory presents the audience with a piece which truly speaks to Brisbane’s community theatre culture. 

Within this play, localised theatre jokes are abundant, and we are presented with over-the-top characters that are all too familiar. The tortured, alcoholic writer (Rachel Nutchey), the boyfriend turned hated ex (Ethan Lwin), the “fun” actress who doesn’t understand the meaning of subtlety (Mackenzie Curtis), the spunky actor who will most likely end up on Home and Away (Alex Kaan), and the emotional support (Alison Telfer McDonald). 

Sanders used the stage beautifully, incorporating both natural and unnatural blocking to distinguish the play reading action from the “script-less” action. This was highly effective. Using the entire stage, Sanders utilised various levels and tempos to ensure a dynamic performance. This impressive production is a testament to Sanders’ direction of both the cast and the production team. The entire company was clearly passionate about the project and as an audience member, it was inspiring to see. 

The cast’s performances in ‘The Unspoken Word is “Joe”’ were some of the most raw and mesmerising in community theatre. Nutchey carried the show and delivered a multi-dimensional woman with an emotional complexity that was unmatched by her co-stars. Lwin played a passionate and electric role throughout the onstage antics and aided the drama within the play. Curtis played the “fun” co-star with creativity and pizzazz, and stood out with her physical comedy. Kaan perfectly epitomised Brisbane’s typical “hot guy”. Bringing his bloke-like flair to the stage, Kaan’s comedic timing captured the audience’s attention. Telfer McDonald rounded out the performance, presenting an empathetic character which the audience clung to for truth and clarity. 

The set design and accompanying light design, by Lachlan Paterson and Nathaniel Knight respectively, was equal parts charming and perfectly chaotic. The pink and silver palette created an eccentric backdrop, perfect for the drag show setting of the “play-reading”. Of course, this out-of-place setting aided the play’s comedy and poked fun at the financial limits of community theatre. 

This was an intoxicating piece of theatre, and 70mins well spent.

‘The Unspoken Word is “Joe”’ performed until Saturday, November 27 at BackDock Arts. For more information visit The Reaction Theory website.

Photos by Nathaniel Knight 

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