A thoroughly original work.

— REVIEW of ‘186,000’ | Australian Arts Review

186,000 | Review

David Collins | Australian Arts Review
Dec 10, 2016

186,000 gets inside. I was about to type, ‘Like a Trojan Horse’, but that would suggest it reaches you through subterfuge, instead of welcoming it with an open sternum.

One of the things you notice about 186,000 is its great use of what isn’t there. The performers take their time before moving, they take a breath before speaking. A piece of theatre can labour under its silence, but here the use of silence is wonderfully balanced. It’s less that the work has pace, but more that it has a palpable rhythm.

Indeed the cyclic nature of those first scenes might not be apparent at first, but it’s there. The performers move without fret, a gentle holding pattern. A sign says, ‘Motel’. The backdrop is something from a Western, wide open Arizona scenery or some such, a necessary stop on the way to some other destination. The music twangs, then again, and then again, as the performers slowly make their way around the space. And then again.

Words are eventually spoken, but first they’re televised, via a screen at one side of the stage. 186,000 has many moving parts, but the main thread is the act of ‘coming out’ – first to oneself in figuring out where you feel you identify, and second in articulating that to the outside world.

One of the qualities of playwright, Kerith Manderson-Galvin’s text is how organically she treats her material. When a quote on screen mentions the act of giving oneself a label, the phrase ‘your criteria’ needs no emphasis for it to land as an indictment. The sleight of hand Kerith pulls off is being able to suggest the political without upsetting what is at its heart an intimate and compelling work of creative verbatim theatre.

There’s many beautiful moments, chaotic elements, shapes and other explorations that play themselves out. In the last scenes, the cast clad themselves in archetypes in what is a terrific reveal, before the most unlikely moment you would ever find in a desert. 186,000 ends with cacophonous music reminiscent of Kate Bush’s, Jig of Life. A hopeful place to find oneself. 186,000 was a thoroughly original work. Quite remarkable.

“A thoroughly original work.”