Two men walk into a bar. Neither are who they say they are. – That’s it. That is all we’re told about ‘DIRT’, and that’s all we need to know.
I don’t think anyone would be surprised by Russia’s persecution of Queer people, it’s been in the news for a long time now, but it’s been a long time since the issue has been discussed to the degree that it should, and ‘DIRT’ is a brilliant way to open up that discussion again.
Angus Cameron has written a powerful script that tells a story better and more cohesively than many writers could. His characters are complex and the ending resolution is both shocking but is also completely satisfying in its conclusion.
Stories like ‘DIRT’ aren’t easy to tell. The audience can lose interest or feel cheated. Personally, I felt neither of these emotions. I was really moved by the story, attentively followed the narrative, and wanted to know more about these characters and their lives as individuals.
The plot is simple, on paper, an Australian tourist (Wil King) meets a Russian tour guide (Patrick Livesey). The play is set over one night where the two explore the Moscow nightlife and the reality of being a queer person in Russia. There are only two actors here. The stage set up is incredibly minimal, making the ability to change locations seamless. You don’t really focus on the set anyway, as for me, I couldn’t take my eyes off both King and Livesey. King plays the slightly naive Australian tourist. His motives aren’t nefarious by any means and when they are revealed, I wasn’t angry with their character, but more frustrated by the idea that they were under the belief that they could understand the way Russia works, more than a resident of the country.
Livesley was spellbinding, not just because their Russian accent was so authentic, but the way they portrayed a character that was so arrogant when we’re first introduced to them, and then to see them open and evolve to a vulnerable human that could make the audience laugh and sit on the edge of their seats during the play’s most intense moments. As already mentioned, the set is minimal, consisting of a sofa couch, chairs and a table. When the setting does change, the lights go out and techno music play. It’s an obviously well-choreographed moment, as King and Livesey move the set to where it needs to be for the next scene.
Bronwen Coleman’s great direction has to be mentioned. It’s not an easy job directing two actors where both need to be perfect and completely in synch with each other, yet Coleman has achieved this. She has found a way to draw the most authentic performances from her actors that helps makes this production the powerhouse that it is.
‘DIRT’ is almost perfect in every way. I left the theatre speechless. As wonderful as all the creative aspects are, one very strong takeaway from seeing this production was a drive to do something about the current situation for queer people in Russia. This is what makes ‘DIRT’ more than just a play using an issue as a backdrop. It genuinely cares and wants to make a change. Hopefully ‘DIRT’ will inspire more people to action.
‘DIRT’ is playing at Chapel Off Chapel in Melbourne until the 5th of June.
For more information and ticketing, visit: https://chapeloffchapel.com.au/show/dirt
Photography by Jacinta Oaten.