‘Again, You Have Trusted Me’ was personal.
‘Again, You Have Trusted Me’ is a story about a family that tears itself apart from the inside after the death of its patriarch, with irreconcilable differences between four dysfunctional siblings resulting in a violent altercation that leaves everyone confused and estranged. ‘Again, You Have Trusted Me’ was a hilarious comedy, presented in the Ron Hurley Theatre as part of Fringe Brisbane and Backbone Festival.
Sarah Stafford presented a one-person show that is part absurdist comedy, part multimedia presentation, and part hard-hitting family drama documentary. Blurring the lines between reality and surreality, Stafford aimed to paint a portrait of her dark family history and reconcile her own feelings towards her mother and aunts through a wide variety of performance techniques.
Starting out seated on a comically oversized chair with similarly oversized sunglasses on and a projected screen that seemed to be openly mocking her, Stafford let the audience know right away that this show has a dark sense of humour. A large chunk of the show was spent creating humour through absurd representations of dark realities.
Each time Stafford explores some deep-seated family trauma and theorises about how she might react to the death of a loved one, something ridiculous happens on the set and on the omnipresent projector.
To contrast with the uncomfortably real documentary footage of her family, everything occurring on the stage is one step removed from reality. Stafford makes use of oddly sized props, unsettling pale makeup, and a set that could barely be considered a representation of a living room, to let the audience know that this is not necessarily reality. Regardless, the line between the real and the abstract is never completely clear.
Surreal, slightly off-balance and outright weird, Stafford interacts directly with the audience as she moves about her ecclectic setting. Whether delivering an ersatz eulogy, doing a Scottish folk dance, or flailing around in a dance with no clear genre, Stafford throws herself heart and soul into the unusual reality she has created. It’s a simultaneously closed off and vulnerable performance that gives the audience a compelling point of view on the story being told.
‘Again, You Have Trusted Me’ was an ambitious production when it came to the tech. Relying on projected images that had to often be perfectly in sync with her performance was no easy task for Stafford. There were a handful of hiccups where Stafford had to speak over or was interrupted by the multimedia but largely, it was impeccable. Stafford’s multimedia components allowed her to explore a wide range of locations, emotions, and experiences with an otherwise minimalist set. It served a practical purpose, often projecting relevant images of family members to help keep Stafford’s story from becoming too confusing, but it served a much stronger artistic purpose.
The further into the show, the more interpretive the piece became, and the less comical. Stafford’s script showed a great understanding of how to reel the audience in with comedy and absurdism, and then turn it against the audience. Stafford utilised the set, the projector, and her penchant for frenzied choreography to first amuse, and then confuse, with the show culminating in pure chaos.
Stafford’s slightly rough-around-the-edges opening night was endearing, and one can only see the show improving from there. There were mistakes, but they may have have already been fixed at the end of the first weekend. As for the form, concept, style, and execution: all were unique, subversive and thoroughly entertaining.
‘Again, You Have Trusted Me’ performs until Friday, 11 November 2022 at Ron Hurley Theatre. For more information visit the Fringe Brisbane website.