Imagine a darkened nightclub with a DJ spinning loud music and people dancing. It sounds like just another night out in the Valley and it is. Only this particular event is not happening at a nightclub but at the Nash Theatre in its current production, X-stacy.
The play traces the story of Ben (Cain Thompson) and his mother Anne (Gwenda Bright) as they try to deal with the death of youngest family member Stacy (Kat Henry) from a drug overdose.
Whereas Ben seems content to sulk around, angry at everyone and everything, his mother has instead chosen to devote her energy towards religion and study. Their inability to communicate with each other is shown in scene after scene of misunderstanding and frustration. Into their lives comes Zoe (Laura Pike), who rents Stacy’s old room. Her bubbly presence changes the dynamics of the household as, much to his annoyance, she continually challenges Ben about his bad attitude.
The play is a well told and well structured, with flashbacks handled particularly well. These scenes have a dream-like quality with characters from the past appearing on stage while present-day characters walk off. The flashbacks also succeed in portraying the exaggerated emotions that usually accompany painful memories. Ben remembers an unrealistically wide-eyed and innocent sister he should have cared for better. Anne remembers a daughter who became increasingly rebellious and out of control. Their collective guilt over Stacy’s death is obvious.
The audio-visuals of the play are atmospheric and a highlight of the play. Visual producer Justin Overell projects a variety of images onto screens set up on both sides of the stage. Each image complements the action on stage for example, images of stained glass in the church scenes, and household interiors in the family home scenes.
The music and sound by Mark Petler are also very well done, with pumping music during the nightclub scenes and, more impressively, dialogue that is clear even when the music is playing.
Director Jess Conoplia has created a play that accurately depicts the rave sub-culture and tells a compassionate story about the trauma Stacy’s death has had on her loved ones. Conoplia succeeds in presenting the consequences of drug use without moralising or judging the characters. In her director’s notes she says the role of the play is to “stimulate conversion and hopefully facilitate open discussion between people of all backgrounds but specifically the likes of parents and kids”.
Cain Thompson brings an impressive physicality to his role as Ben. You can feel his unfocused anger at the world around him. However, he does not seem as focused in the quieter scenes where more nuanced behaviour would have been suitable.
Anthony West plays the smug and self-important DJ Fergus well, contrasting this nicely with his dual role as the humble, well-meaning priest, Father Paul. Kat Henry has a more difficult role as she is only in the exaggerated flashback scenes where her Stacy is hyper-active, over-the-top and rebellious.
Laura Pike is a feisty and enthusiastic Zoe and delivers some great one-liners throughout the play. Gwenda Bright brings an appropriate level of parental concern to her role as Anne. And Skye Woods as Jenna clearly shows the guilt she feels over the death of her friend.
Margery Forde’s script is interesting, breaking up the serious topic of drug use with some great snappy one-liners.
X-stacy is an even-handed look at the drug culture of the rave scene. This neutral stance gives the characters room to tell their own story and it is fascinating to witness the different ways they choose to deal with the pain of Stacy’s death.