a very funny work that messes with your head

— REVIEW of ‘The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe” | Australian Stage (2015)

The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’ | Review

Liza Dezfouli | Australian Stage
18 Feb, 2015

The set of Hotel Sorrento? But there isn’t a production of Hotel Sorrento … Hang on, it’s just a reading. But it got reviews in Sydney. They must’ve changed it. If it’s just a reading, why’s it on on a week night? If it’s just a reading they probably won’t want a review, then. She needs to shut up and get on with …. Oh! Sucked in. Silly me. But that isNatasha Herbert. Playing herself. What about all that noise outside – they must have recorded that – it’s so much part of the La Mama experience, noise leaking in. The bottles. It’s a rubbish play they’re ‘reading’. ‘Man One. Woman One, Man Two, Woman Two. ‘ Actually…

The Unspoken Word is Joe is presented by MKA: Theatre of New WritingDeclan Greene is the director. They’ve got lots to play with here. It’s a kind of site specific work. The noise outside the theatre turned out to be happily co-incidental, sometimes curiously well-timed and matching the goings on inside. The actors are playing themselves (Aaron Orzech, Annie Last and Matt Hickey) except for Nikki Shiels in the lead who plays the playwright, Zoey Dawson, in a fabulously emotional and unsettling performance. Love the layers of the ‘playwright’ playing herself playing the lead in the drama of her life.

The Unspoken Word is Joe is a very funny work that messes with your head, a work that craps completely on theatrical conventions. A woman in Sydney actually heckled the actor doing the introductory bit at one performance, told her to shut up and let Zoey get on with it. More sucked in than I was, then. Phew. That’s how clever the writing is, you see. We’ve all seen those types. This is a post-modern work, a play within a play, one that collapses in on itself in a sodden, drunken, embarrassing barfy heap in front of everyone. The emotional breakdown nightmare. I knew a woman who got dragged across the floor at a crowded party, sobbing and screaming, clinging to the leg of the man she was in love with as he was trying to leave her. (No, it wasn’t me). This play’s like that. The references to Hotel Sorrento add more cute and funny layers. Love it. G and I sit in the theatre as the audience tries to decide if it’s really the end and after the stage manager assures them it is they tentatively dribble out, tiptoeing past a collapsed distraught Zoey being comforted by Natasha. G wonders how long the after taste of this very Melbourne post-modern piss-take will last. In Sydney they thought it was weird. But being Sydney, they loved the buzz.

“a very funny work that messes with your head”