unrestrained and impetuous
The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’ | Review
Catherine MacNamara | Concrete Playground
28 Jan, 2015
Zoey Dawson’s meta-satire is a hilarious demolition derby about love, desperation, Tinder and play readings
Meta is so hot right now. Everywhere you look, the indie theatre scene is blossoming with shows that let ‘real life’ or ‘rehearsals’ creep onto the stage and taint the audience’s experience. The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’ is one such meta show to dive into, offering some new tweaks on the trend.
Produced by MKA: Theatre of New Writing and Griffin Independent, this play written by Zoey Dawson (one third of I’m Trying to Kiss You) and directed by Declan Greene (one half of Sisters Grimm) is at once clever and childish. It’s unrestrained and impetuous — much like the ‘Zoey Dawson’ character on the stage. We admire the child prodigy who by day discusses peace and conflict but still loses her shit when she doesn’t get a Fanta.
The Unspoken Word Is ‘Joe’ chronicles the loves and losses of Zoey Dawson herself, but explodes her experience to touch the hearts of everyone. Joe is an 80-minute surprise-party-nightmare; the content is best left unspoiled, but you will leave feeling incredulous at the transformation of ‘Zoey’ (played by Nikki Shiels). Shiels gives a harrowing portrait of female demolishment — both received and delivered. As writer-creator, the figure of Dawson reconstructs her stage world to suit her desires, and has no mushy emotions when it comes to sacking/recasting her ‘Man 1’.
If Dawson hasn’t put herself into the script, she’s put a few damn interesting females onstage nevertheless. Shiels as ‘Zoey’ reveals her jealous self-obsession then realises she must seduce us back. She sweetly blushes at her own success, then violently lashes out at her co-stars (Matt Hickey, Annie Last and Aaron Orzech dedicatedly play the nameless minor characters in her story). Natasha Herbert is MC for the evening and is by turns hilarious, heartwarming and a total sell-out.
The typical meta gags are there, explaining what the set/lighting will look like at some unspecified date in the future, etcetera. The writing pokes fun at the ‘staging a reading’ culture that actors may buy into when they’re so fab and important. It walks scarily close to the ‘too far’ line, until you realise that line’s been pushed further back the whole time. Joe‘s creative team calls it one of the worst plays ever written, and it definitely delivers a cringe fest as Zoey belts down her path of destruction. You’ll like this if you can cope with the dark fact that love in the Tindersphere might be messed up and fruitless.