Realism @ WAAPA’s Roundhouse Theatre



By Samuel J. Cox

This stunning play offers a snapshot of a day in the life of ‘ordinary’ young man Liam Maguire as he lounges about his house, alone with his thoughts and confusion. From the moment Liam strolls onto the stage with his hand tucked inside his boxers, the play offers a convincing portrayal of youth. Moping around his house, trying to figure things out, Liam appears to be suffering from depression in the wake of an ill-decided breakup. While he makes breakfast, does washing and answers the phone, he thinks back on his life. The audience is shown echoes of his childhood, and come to understand his relationships with his estranged Father and deceased Mother, and former partners Kirsty (Kirsty Marillier) and Harriet (Harriet Davies). Over the course of ninety-minutes, we realise that Liam isn’t a good or a bad person; he’s just regular, with regular problems. I can only conclude that author Anthony Neilson understands that it is hard being young.

‘Realism’ is ‘in-yer-face’ theatre, a type of drama that emerged in the UK in the 1990s. Coined by British theatre critic Aleks Sierz, it referred to provocative works that presented shocking, vulgar and confronting material on the stage as a way of involving and affecting the audience. The seminal names in this tradition are Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill and ‘Realism’s’ Neilson. His strong writing pushes boundaries and takes risks, which leaves an impression on the mind.

Presented by the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), it was on par with the best performances from the Black Swan State Theatre Company or the Blue Room. Directed by Anthony Skuse, the gymnastic cast provides a physical and energetic performance that is raw and real, as the title alludes. WAAPA’s depth and breadth of talent makes you wonder how actors like Keanu Reeves ever got anywhere. Performed by gifted third year acting students, you can easily imagine them soon being mentioned in the same conversation as the greats. They’re also major hotties in all manner of undress.

As the name implies, the stage and theatre are circular, which means the characters face away from sections of the crowd at times during the performance. However, they make every effort to keep all seats engaged. To suit the text, the set is familiar and everyday: an unmade bed, a kitchenette, a couch, and a floor of white tiles that rise up to form a sloping wall. The soundtrack and lighting were utterly in sync with the tone and content.

Comic and heart wrenching, the play clearly struck a chord with the matinee crowd, a few of whom shed tears. ‘Realism’ is outstandingly performed, but some content will deeply distress some viewers. With a stunningly brutal murder scene, full frontal nudity, plenty of ‘C-bombs’, and a raunchy and wild threesome in/on a toilet, its generous dash of profanity and filth is partnered with pop culture references that make it fairly inaccessible to older demographics. It’s a play that responds to the age old cry: won’t someone please think of the children?! Geared towards engaging and entertaining a young audience, it will draw youth to the theatre like Greens Senator Scott Ludlum does for politics.

‘Realism’ runs until June 19. 

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