Review: Song for a Weary Throat

Dark and majestic physical theatre

By Lois Maskiell

A woman scrambles up a slope on all fours, never reaching the top. Another woman walks around the stage desperately asking her fellow performers to “please dance with me”. A performer jumps as if in aerobics class lifting each leg until she cannot continue any more, finally she lets out a wild yell. These are but three samples of what is to be experienced in acclaimed ensemble Rawcus’ devastatingly beautiful, Song for a Weary Throat.

Without text, without a linear plot, without any assumed structure to rest your experience upon, the production encourages a reading that insists on surrendering to sensations and abstract responses, rather than reason and logical interpretations. Director Kate Sulan paints not with a brush but with a cast of fifteen with and without disability. The interplay Sulan strikes in each vignette between the physically rich performance, lighting and sound keeps the overall configuration constantly transforming and fluid.

Lighting morphs from brutal to gentle thanks to Rachel Burke’s design which opens with a startling sequence that shatters all expectations. After Nilgun Guven scratches an quote from Dante’s Divine Comedy on a chalkboard, it is safe to assume we will be entering a sort of darkness. Blindingly harsh lights illuminate the entire auditorium in concentrated flashes accompanied by Jethro Woodward thunderous sound effects. The setting – an abandoned gymnasium – has leaves strewn accross the floor and fraying chairs which provide endless opportunities for the performers to sit, pause and even throw.

Formations that single out individuals remain seamlessly positioned within a whole which rarely strays from overarching themes of isolation and despair. Despite sharing the stage, the performers often appear disconnected, though occasionally layers of connection are revealed. Their hollow expressions out number their warmer displays and it is this dominating misery that I found crushing and at times difficult to bear.

Gian Slater, Joshua Kyle and Louisa Rankin of the Invenio Singers flood the stage with unearthly sounds, even forming unusual harmonies with humming and breathing. When Joshua Kyle wails into the microphone while holding Clement Baade’s hand, his majestic vocals build endless tension in a highly charged and consuming moment.

Rawcus exchange for your ticket a lost world of suffering that draws spellbinding depth from a whirlwind of sound, light and movement.

Song for a Weary Throat is being performed at the Arts Centre until 14 October as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183. 

Photograph by Sarah Walker featuring Prue Stevenson and Joshua Lynzaat.