(New Farm Nash Theatre)


Aftershocks …. timely!
Aftershocks …. accessible!
Aftershocks …. moving!
Aftershocks …. a trifle tooo long.

Aftershocks is a docudrama structured on the memories of survivors of the Newcastle earthquake which struck the then Steel City at 10.28am on 28 December 1989. It focuses on the recorded recollections of staff and patrons of the very popular Workers Club. These (for the most part) are skilfully interwoven to provide a tapestry of the best and worst of the human psyche and spirit in the face of disaster.

Director Malcolm Steele notes for patrons that the play was already in rehearsal when the American crisis of 11 September 2001 flashed with numbing relentlessness onto televisions world-wide. I am grateful the company elected to proceed. Unlike a yet another Bruce-n-Arnie-disaster-(avoided)-SFX drama, there is nothing gratuitous in Aftershocks.

As the bombs now rain on Afghanistan we can argue the rights and wrongs of who is doing what to whom and why, and in so doing come to terms with our sense of moral indignation from whichever side of the religious-political divide we place ourselves. There is a logic, albeit an insane, outrageous logic, in the deaths in New York on September 11. They were the victims of racial/religious global politics.

But how do we come to terms with death by natural disaster? Who do we blame? How do we “make peace” with the random demise of innocents of all ages simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Life is a patchwork of choices and chances. Knowing the difference may help avoid some of the latter, but only fools and dreamers and zealots are lulled to a belief we can avoid them all.

These are the some of the issues Aftershocks addresses through the experiences of those who were there and (mostly) are still here.

After Vinegar Tom I commented on the adventurous program Nash had planned for the year and on the vitality and commitment of that Nash cast. The V & C carry forward to this group, allowing for the absence (by chance) of Alex Burns and a stalwart reading by a stand-in whose name I did not note. (Allow me to apologise.)

The production gambles on its actors. There is no reliance (as well there might have been ) on projections or video or other special visual or sound effects. The only access we have to the experiences the play provides is through the actors’ renderings of them. Each actor plays at least two characters and some three. Each character comes in three-dimensional creativity and craft drawing us into the heart of their monologues or bouncing us between the interlaced “dialogue” compiled from the survivors’ commentaries.

The union between director and cast in their achievement was palpable. By intermission I was wiping the tears that had quietly rolled. By the final exit an hour later, however, the tears were dry and the tension was evaporating regardless of the best endeavours of both to sustain it. An active and selective blue pencil (if permitted) might have matched the play to the company’s dedication to, and realisation of it.

— Ron Finney
(Performance seen: Fri 5th October 2001)