No Ball Games Allowed – Theatre Review

Kristen Smyth both writes and stars in ‘No Ball Games Allowed’, this astounding production that weaves together trauma and social structures to explore a myriad of experiences that can be confronting, and you should be warned, there are themes of suicide along with sexual assault. While all of this is explored, it doesn’t always land as spectacularly as it could have. That being said it is a brave attempt to fit all of this into a show that hopefully with a few more refinements, will be one that audiences will never forget.

Smyth dives into gender transitioning recalling her experience while also showing others who in marginalised communities came along for her journey. The rejection by her mother and childhood in London play out as staccato diary entries rather than a typical three-act structure of a show. This works in well with the hard electro dance soundtrack that is expertly orchestrated by Rachel Lewindon and Robert Downie. While it may sound like it’s out of place, it flows well with the script and the layout of the stage and set.

Kristen plays the adult version of herself, while Mia Tuco plays the young Kristen, as well as playing young Kristen’s mother. The two recreate scenes of Smyth’s childhood of getting caught wearing her mother’s clothes and the constant fighting and back and forth between Smyth and Tuco is fantastic. These scenes are gripping and the gorgeous lighting and effects help portray the journey to acceptance.

A constant drip of water can be heard throughout the entirety show. A mirror lines the back wall on an angle to reflect photos and projections of the past. As these cycle through, linger or snap by, you start to get a real sense of the deep trauma that the characters carry as they struggle to find their place in the world and in their relationships with each other.

A lot is squeezed into the 50 minutes run time and if a transgender journey is new to you, you may feel like you are on the outside, and I guess this is the point. It’s not a three-part stereotypical story you can laugh, sing along and cry to, it’s confronting, it’s messy, and is one of the most beautiful stories I have seen on stage.

There is so much to unpack in this performance and I find myself wanting to go and experience it again to delve deeper and pick up on subtleties I missed the first time around. If you are looking for a sincere and honest piece of theatre, then is the show for you. No Ball Games Allowed’ is honest, raw, and very confronting in all the right ways.

‘No Ball Games Allowed’ is now playing at Melbourne’s Theatre Works until the 9th of April.
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