The Culture – Theatre Review

I am going to back a bold statement here: The Culture is the theatre production that all Australians need to see at the moment. I knew from the minute the production started that this was something that I needed to see right now.

The fact that the clips shown on the back-wall before the actors took to the stage were targeting the likes of Tony Abbott and Bob Katter and their misogynistic and homophobic views, matched the fact that for the past few weeks I have been trying not to explode on radio about how the Liberal Party and their left wing supposed journalists have cruelly used the alleged rape of a woman to try and score political points against their enemies.

I should also warn people that The Culture is not an easy production to view as for some it maybe a trigger, while for others it may take you to an uncomfortable place. But let’s be honest, this is also an important production because it is perhaps one of the most natural portrayals of domestic violence that you are ever likely to see.

Directed by Bethany Caputo and written by Laura Jackson, The Culture centres around two best friends who also live together; Katie (Jackson) and Will (Mina Asfour). The pair have been firm friends since high school and now spend their days making their popular videos and podcasts for their loyal fans.

Both are single, something that Katie says has been too long for her and because her work life. She works for a lingerie company where she is under-valued, her job is not what she thinks it should be, and she is starting to think that perhaps dating would not be a bad idea. Meanwhile, she is also trying to encourage Will to get out and mingle now that he is out and proud, but at times it feels like he is reluctant to do so.

Then their lives forever change when a new colleague starts at Katie’s work. While in the early stages she may not be a fan of Kale, it soon becomes obvious to Will that she is starting to fall onto a slippery slope.

I found that the power of The Culture comes from the fact that the script is so natural. Often two-handers like this production can feel forced with a lot of padding but that certainly isn’t the case here. The dialogue is natural, almost to the point where at times I felt like I was a third wheel spying on these two friends as they go about their daily business. That naturalness works though because I found myself liking these characters more and more and that certainly meant that the storylines tugged at my heartstrings in a way that I certainly wasn’t prepared for.

When a production warns me that it is going to make me both laugh and cry, I normally take it with a grain of salt. But there could not have been a more apt description for The Culture. Early on, the friendly banter between Katie and Will often had me chuckling. However, as the story went on and went to some dark places, I certainly had a few tears.

This is a production that doesn’t hold back and for that I give all involved credit while its main theme domestic violence is not the only topic explored in this beautifully written script. Will’s coming out story is particularly harrowing and I could see the shock on the audience member’s faces around me as Mina Asfour emotionally delivered the story to us all. There are also themes revolving around acceptance at school, concerns about your role at work, and even weight issues. There is little doubt that every one of us in the audience could have related to at least one theme in The Culture.

Nobody gets out of this production unscathed and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The themes of this production are things that we should all be open to confronting and discussing on a number of levels. I also need to mention the fact that the performances of Laura Jackson and Mina Asfour are amazing.

Both performers really portray the naturalness of the script phenomenally well. Asfour is one of those actors where a look can mean as much as a thousand words, while Jackson brings Katie’s story to the stage in a way that shows why she is one of the most talented theatre actresses in Australian right now. In fact, I can’t wait to see what roles both she and Asfour tackle next because the talent between these two is out of this world.

There is no doubt that The Culture is one of the most powerful pieces of theatre that I have seen this year. A brilliantly written dramatic script that delves into topics and themes that need to have a light cast on them, and this has brought to the stage by two very talented performers, making The Culture one of the must-see productions of 2023.

The Culture is on at Theatre Works, Explosive Factory until June 17.
For more information and ticketing, visit:
https://www.theatreworks.org.au/2023/the-culture

Photography supplied by Aisling Brady (Aisling Enterprises).

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