Chase – Theatre Review

“The human mind is a wonderful yet fragile thing”, this is the thought that left me after seeing Chase at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre. In truth, I see so many films and watch many pieces of theatre, that it is rarity when something actually challenges me. Last night, I found that Chase challenged me in ways I hadn’t experienced before, that was until everything fell into place and I had a “I just got it” moment when it finally hit me.

Directed by Kamarra Bell-Wykes. Chase takes its name from the production’s central character played by Carly Sheppard. Chase is a social media influencer and a vlogger on YouTube, who has created her own following with her show, ‘Clap Chasey’.

Chase finds herself alone living in a dwelling made up of found materials. The world is a very different place, as Chase herself says, “There has been no land for a long time”, and she is forced to live with night terrors and visions while drinking her own urine and eating cockroaches.

Chase still talks to her followers though and is daily joined by her ‘friends’ who are actually dolls. There’s the trendy influencer Influenza (nicknamed ‘Fluey’), the very serious Sally, and Chase’s spiritual guide ‘Traditional Girl’.

It is kind of hard to describe everything about Chase and the world that she lives in without going into spoiler territory. I’ll admit that at the very start of the production I was wondering what the hell was going on. Who was the strange person that drank her own urine and had a collection of dolls each with their own persona? I was enjoying the performance and marvelling at the acting ability of Carly Sheppard, yet I was still left wondering, “What the hell is going on?”

As the production went on, I soon began to realise exactly what had happened and why Chase was living the way that she was. It was only when all the puzzle pieces fell into place that I realised both Bell-Wykes and Sheppard are pure geniuses and two of the most exciting talents that we currently have in Australian theatre.

The way Chase comes together is nothing short of brilliant. From the strong performance from Sheppard as she plays not only Chase but the different personas of her dolls, through to amazing visuals that are projected onto the wall behind Chase throughout the production. Everything interacts together perfectly and fills like a glorious collision between experimental theatre and arthouse cinema.

Rounding out that perfecting is the set design by Small Sound, filling the smaller space of The Tower at the Malthouse amazingly well, and allowing Sheppard to use every piece of space throughout the production. At times she even contorts herself through what is basically her bedframe.

Much of the genius of this production must fall with Carly Sheppard. Her performance is a mixture of drama, comedy with some acrobatic contortion thrown in for good measure. At times she slinks around the stage like a cat moving her body around her space, as her character’s mind slowly goes more and more insane.

I have no doubt that you’ll get a lot more out of Chase once you realise what has happened to create the world that Chase now lives in. But don’t despair! All the clues are there for you in the dialogue and the visuals – you just have to be smart enough to put them all together. Yes, this is absolutely a challenging, bold production that makes the audience work for a result. But honestly, the result is worth it.

Chase is playing now at The Tower, Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne until the 20th of March.
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Photography by Shortcut Creative.

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