‘Tainted’ // Anywhere Festival

‘Tainted’ was efflorescent.

Entering the Paint Factory in Yeronga feels like entering somewhere you shouldn’t be allowed, and ‘Tainted’ tells the stories that we’ve been told we can’t tell. 

Written and directed by Zara Chandler, the piece was first presented in Vena Cava’s Freshblood Festival in 2021 under the title ‘Monster’ and returns for a run at Anywhere Festival this year under the name ‘Tainted’. Combining an incredible ensemble cast and spectacular technical design, ‘Tainted’ seeks to explore how our trauma consumes us through time. 

‘Tainted’ blended forms of traditional theatre conventions and immersive theatre to enter the world of young people and how their trauma controls their lives. Addressing issues such as drug abuse, young love and teenage pregnancy, ‘Tainted’ crosses the polite line and embodies the concept of trauma, through a powerful physical performance by the ensemble cast, as the ‘mass’ of trauma that haunts the characters.

The cast of ‘Tainted’ truly embodied the ancient tradition of an ensemble and worked in tandem to support one another and bring a sense of unity to the story. All of the cast members played individual characters grappling with some kind of trauma and doubled as the glitching ‘mass’ that haunted their companions. The ensemble clearly had an abundance of respect and love for each other as they navigated confronting issues. 

The addition of a pre-show which enabled the audience to freely walk around and explore the performance space was a perfect touch for a show that was so intimate. Letters littered the dusty concrete floor of the haunting Paint Factory, and small personal effects were scattered around the ‘frames’ through which their respective characters would enter. 

The absolute highlight of ‘Tainted’ was the lighting and technical elements, designed by Noah Milne. It brought the trauma ‘mass’ to electric life and truly transported the space to an almost matrix inspired world of green lasers, smoke machines and strip lights. It was truly something to behold, and marvellous that Milne and the creative team were able to transform a space that has no pre-existing light fixtures and very little capacity for rigging. The space was utilised with great effect, as the cast travelled between steel pliers that outlined the ‘frames’ of the stories, giving the story cohesion and a flow. This is the greatest benefit to the Paint Factory’s unconventional performance spaces, the gift of play and exploration that no other theatre can give artists. However, standing room shows such as this can often be difficult for audience members who require more accessible seating options. 

Where this show soared in the ensemble work and the spectacular technical design, it lacked in its writing. The stories felt very real at their core, but the characters lacked nuance and a sense of subtlety, especially in the story of the two girls grappling with internalised homophobia. The show would benefit from being far longer than its approximately thirty-minute run time, which does not give much room for the individual monologues to breathe, or the monstrous ‘mass’ to establish it purpose, without relying on technical elements. 

This is an incredibly promising piece that slots in very nicely to current popular theatrical forms, such as physical theatre and a verbatim approach to storytelling, but needs revision before it can reach its full potential.

‘Tainted’ performed until 21 May at The Paint Factory. For more information visit the Anywhere Festival website.

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