As we come close to the end of a year that has seen Australia at the top of the list for human rights violation, it seems fitting to see theatre unpacking humanity's reactions to tragedy - whether it be on the scale of a break up or a natural disaster, Song for a Weary Throat is a deeply personal experience for audiences, asking 'What is it that propels us to get up after loss, after heartbreak, after failure?'
The award-winning theatre company, Rawcus, features a fifteen-member ensemble of actors with and without disability - all of whom are present on-stage throughout the sixty-minute performance at Theatre Works. Such a large cast creates a disorienting sense of chaos throughout the show, as viewers are purposefully overstimulated by multiple scenes occurring simultaneously, without a strong focal point to hold on to. Likewise, the basic set, resembling the wreckage in a bombsite, is continuously shifted and remodelled by actors dragging or discarding chairs at random.
Sound designer, Jethro Woodward teams up with composer Gian Slater from the Invenio Singers to transform a simple set to an atmosphere of unrelenting and moving high tension - imperative to a performance almost free of dialogue. Within the first few minutes, blistering cracks of sounds likened to lightening fill the air and audiences are left in the dark as if trapped in an electrical storm. Eerie, but dreamlike ballads are paired with outstanding improvised throat-clicking and singing by the Invenio Singers, who become a part of the Rawcus cast as they move around the action on-stage.
Short moments of reprieve are offered by arresting images such as an actor standing under a spotlight looking up in wonder at a stream of fine sand cascading from the ceiling, as if suspended by an invisible hourglass. Humour is dotted throughout the performance, particularly when the actors interact with members of the Invenio Singers in a childlike manner, tipping a singer off his chair in the middle of a song.
Physicality and dance is the strength of the ensemble, with actors coupling up to waltz tenderly or imitate one anothers' moves in a group until they slowly retire. Actor, Prue Stevenson, executes shocking breakfalls, proving the malleable and resilient nature of humans. Dance becomes emblematic of hope and levity after tragedy, which is best depicted in an animated 1940s Big Band-style routine.
Song for a Weary Throat illustrates the severity of humanity's bind with self-inflicted, as well as unwarranted tragedy through stimulating performances, and leaves audiences with a sense that perhaps amongst the chaos there's hope if we hold onto each other.