A brilliant queer story of self-discovery, self-worth and redemption that is raw, authentic and full of hope.
By Sebastian Purcell
Sirens is a solo performance, delving into the queer experience of love, lust and acceptance. Siren is expertly directed by Liv Satchell and superbly written and performed by Benjamin Nichols.
Twenty-two years old and rurally isolated, Eden, finds purpose when his voice is in full flight. However, bored, aimless and angry at his parents, Eden is consumed by the attention and sexual gratification from the endless string of older men that pass through on holiday. That is until he meets David and forms a connection and dreams of what life could be like. Until David abandons Eden and Eden is forced to come back to reality and find an inner strength, peace and joy once again in his music.
This is an exhilarating, fair dinkum Aussie tale. Nichol’s performance is visceral, rhythmic and his ability to project characters he brings to life—his mother, father and David as well as others—through just the inflection of his voice conjures ripe imagery.
But above all, and in a total surprise, Nichol performs two songs acapella throughout the show; I Want Someone Badly, Jeff Buckley and Into my Arms, Nick Cave. These are stunning moments in the context of the show, but also show Nichol’s skill as a vocalist with such raw power, control, and emotion. These remakes are emphatically better than their originals. Selfishly, I wanted to have the whole show sung after hearing this.
The script has a mammoth word count that would rival any hour-long Aaron Sorkin TV episode, and impressively Nichol hardly draws a breath. As a minor critique, I did find the lack of silence refrained my ability to reflect and take in the full emotion; we were thrusted from one high octane scene to another, one after the other.
On the technical side, Connor Ross’s sound design is minimal yet important as a quiet supporting act, placing you on location, whether that’s the crash of waves along the beach, to the ear-splitting sirens inside Eden’s head. Harrie Hogan’s lighting design does the same, effortlessly supporting scene changes on an empty stage. I never once felt like I didn’t know where we physically were in the story. It’s a shame that the Trades Hall Meeting room isn’t soundproof. and noisy, excited crowds outside could be heard towards the end of the show – not that it knocked Nichol off his game.
Siren certainly deserves to be seen in front of large crowds, with an Aussie story worth telling. Nichol’s acting proves that you only need an authentic commitment to storytelling for a truly impressive theatre show.
Siren played as part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival.