Reviews Theatre

REVIEW: A Selfish Act @ Fremantle Festival 2015

Reviewed by: Jon Davidson

Looking up this performance’s facebook page, titled ‘Drug Aware Presents: A Selfish Act,’ I was amused to find the most honest FAQ I’ve ever read:

“1. Is This A Play About Drugs?
2. Is This A Play About Selfish People Taking Drugs?

A Selfish Act is put together with the work of a collection of agencies – Skylight Ensemble Theatre, John Curtin High School, as well as Drug Aware (obviously) under the YCulture Metro grant program. It isn’t hard to see where interest in the performance came from because the play deals with a number of topics which are largely contained within the millennial generation’s “scope” – sex tapes, hacking and leaking, the relationship between the press and politics, and even a dash of rent affordability.

It’s immediately obvious that authentic students are a part of this performance when you see the most legitimate representation of a twenty-something year old’s room presented on stage as part of a versatile set.

A Selfish Act takes place in an implied Perth setting, made clear when one of central four characters Michelle, a tabloid Journalist, references a colleague landing a job at ‘The West’. We follow Michelle as she lives with an unorganised room-mate Charles who happens to be a professional hacker, and with Charles’s hacking skills Michelle is able to maintain a steady flow of juicy stories to please her gossip column editor. The candidate for state premier’s private life becomes part of their schemes, and a story of blackmail, promotion and karma follows. So, some pretty recognisable tropes, but it was interesting to watch the classic ‘hard worker vs implied stoner’’ dynamic play out between two young female actors, usually a scene reserved for bro comedies.

Dare I say it, my main criticism of this performance is that a very feminine sensibility runs throughout it. There are three scenes of breakdown level crying, a kind of superfluous sub-plot surrounding two isolated sisters and their upbringing, and there’s also a guilt induced suicide attempt. So, definitely not a dry performance. These are all well performed by a talented group of strong emerging actors – particularly the character of Irene – but a definite ‘soap opera’ vibe runs throughout it, which at times feels jarring, particularly in dialogue between the character of Irene and her sister.

This ongoing subplot surrounding Irene and her sister’s past – I didn’t really get it. It ends up being all about how Irene doesn’t call her Mother, and that never gets touched on throughout the whole leak-blackmail-scandal plotline, and I guess we’re left to assume that Irene made a sex tape because she didn’t have a close mother figure.

A Selfish Act touches on a number of contemporary issues circulating both within modern culture and modern Australia. The performance has the traits you would expect from something of its kind, but for anybody studying Journalism or PR, you’d like it for the tongue-in-cheek references, and there’s definitely something in it for anyone prone to a cheeky soapie.