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Poison by Lot Vekemans - Review

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by Helen McDonald (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer in Brisbane, Australia.
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Poison Play Lot Vekemans Metro Art Elise Grieg Metro Art Brisbane
Protagonists of Poison by Lot Vekemans at Metro Arts, Brisbane. Photo courtesy of Metro Arts

We find ourselves in a curious place. We are inside of a room in a cemetery. It's an unconventional backdrop for a play, but a poetically somber stage to portray grief. Anxiously waiting inside are ex-husband and wife, reunited after 10 years of separation. Their meeting is not voluntary; they are forced to meet again because they are eternally bound by their deceased son, Jacob.

A mysterious poison has leeched into the soil surrounding Jacob's burial site. Our protagonists are faced with the decision of whether or not to relocate his body; a decision upon which they must come to an amicable agreement. Their difference in opinion quickly becomes unveiled as they watch the agonizing tick of the clock's hands. The cemetery's caretaker is late and there is no indication of when they will arrive.

The play provides a delicate frame to portray the stages of grief. The title, Poison, reflects the poison of grief that can insidiously seep into the soul and eat away at the mind. The backdrop is bare, leaving the protagonists vulnerable in the centre of the room. The floor is marked out with three circles which symbolise the rings of grief. Like the eye of a storm, the closer to the inner circle the protagonists move, the closer to their innermost and intense feelings they stand. It's a delicate process to strip away and examine the layers of grief, let alone amidst a storm of emotional turmoil.

Poison Play Lot Vekemans Metro Art Elise Grieg Art Brisbane
Protagonists of Poison by Lot Vekemans at Metro Arts, Brisbane. Photo courtesy of Metro Arts

The protagonists are simply known as He and She; a subtle manoeuvre to showcase the play's true protagonist, grief. Names carry preconceptions which create false storylines in our minds. How could we explore the fragile unravelling of raw human emotions if we are caught up searching for familiarity in the characters?

Still, they sit, just the two, together in a room. As time takes it's time to pass, unresolved issues begin to surface. Like an intricate dance, their conversation waxes and wanes in intensity. At times they provoke each other as if picking at an unravelling thread. It becomes apparent that a deep connection was once shared; a deep love that is buried beneath layers of feeling of betrayal, anguish and grief. For the first time after abandoning their relationship over a decade ago, he and she are given the opportunity to express the things that should have been said, many, many years ago. It is a vulnerable process that takes time; time that they have unexpectedly encountered. We are teased with a rhetorical question: despite the unhealed wounds, can they revive something once lost?

In the final scene, you feel as though you have shared the emotional journey with He and She. The time has come for them to confront their problems for the first time. A shared sense of relief can be felt throughout the audience as the last of the defensive layers falls away; we begin to see the love that is still alive inside them both. Peace is found at last, after enduring the pain and anguish necessary to heal.

Poison Play Lot Vekemans at Metro Art Brisbane
Protagonists of Poison by Lot Vekemans at Metro Arts, Brisbane. Photo courtesy of Metro Arts

Poison has been brought to Brisbane by E.G. and Metro Arts. It's the national premiere of this world-renowned play by Dutch playwright, Lot Vekemans. She is played by Elise Greig (Producer) and He is played by Paul Bishop, both local Brisbane talents.

Poison will be running until 19th May at the Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts at 109 Edward Street, Brisbane. Ticket prices range from $28 general admission to $20 concession admission. Companion card tickets are also available.
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Phone: 07 3002 7100
Where: Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts 109 Edward St Brisbane
Cost: $28 General admission, $20 Concession
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