Presented as part of the State Theatre Company of SA’s State Education program, this is an astounding piece of theatre – full-on in all senses of the word.
The intelligent direction by Nescha Jelk, the simple but stunningly effective set design, the fabulous soundtrack, the innovative use of video, the well-balanced script, the scintillating performances – it all melds into an electrifying whole that grabs the audience by the scruff of the brain and gives it a damn good shake.
The play bursts into life with a pumping metal backing track, the stage in darkness apart from a square of white light focused on main character Lee, who is focused on a video game.
As the music and the game reach climax, the video screen behind Lee explodes with the name Gorgon, then splits in half and spins around as his best mate Maz joins him on stage.
The first act continues in this stylised vein with video, lighting and soundtrack used to great effect (über-kudos to the ingenious Chris Petridis, lighting and video designer, and cutting-edge composer Will Spartalis).
The script is high-energy, laughter-fuelled and filled with teenage-boy-banter. Lee and Maz head off into the night, looking for fun and adventure. It turns out that what they’re heading towards is inevitable disaster.
The second act is lower in energy, with a more traditional stage set and some intense subject matter. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Lee and Lola (Maz’s twin sister) are both devastated, but their devastation manifests in very different ways. Lee has internalised his emotions and pretty much become a recluse; Lola is more openly upset, reaching out to friends for support. When she reaches out to Lee, he reacts with anger, but Lola doesn’t give up.
Chiara Gabrielli is remarkable as both Maz and Lola. There’s no over-masculinisation when she performs as Maz; she just is a young man. In the second act, she’s equally natural and believable as Lola, even when she’s Lola pretending to be Maz.
James Smith is also outstanding as Lee, his performance both sensitive and utterly compelling. These are two young actors destined for great things and already moving rapidly towards them.
It’s a sad indictment of our society that a play aimed at young people must address issues of self-hatred, isolation and depression. Gorgon does what good art should do: it gets people talking about the issues and thinking about the causes. A little hand-grenade of a play that detonates with questions about the gender-specific roles into which we are all pushed.
Gorgon, presented by the State Theatre Company of SA, is at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until May 26.