Starring: Camilla Ah Kin, Sophie Hansser, Kirk Page, Meyne Wyatt
Written by: Lachlan Philpot
Directed by: Lee Lewis
Silent Disco certainly doesn’t follow the crowd. Playwright Lachlan Philpot has created a play with its own world, which at first sight is an hormonal explosion of middle adolescent growth, incendiary language and defiant theatricality, but then once you get into the beat it becomes an inspirational journey.
Some may have heard of the term "silent disco", a concept developed in the last couple of years, involving a dance party where the music is broadcast through people's mp3 players instead of loudspeakers . The concept got its name because a bystander sees a dancing crowd with headphones, but doesn't hear the music, hence the name "silent disco".
The play tells the story of Tamara’s (Hansser) adolescent life. With a missing Mother, a drunken father and a new boyfriend called Squid (Wyatt), all Tamara wants to do is go to the year nine formal. During the play Tamara takes you inside her own mind, sharing her every thought, from what she thinks of her school teacher to her thoughts on why she hates Tuesdays.
Almost every second student at Tamara's school drops out, but one teacher, Mrs. Petchell (Ah Kin), tries hard to keep students in school to sit their exams. Most of all she tries harder to understand her students' minds. When Tamara shares a personal story, Mrs. Petchell tries even harder to make sure Tamara sees the end of high school. However, Tamara is quite distracted by her relationship with Squid. They have been dating for exactly three weeks, sixteen hours and forty minutes.
Squid is of Indigenous heritage and, just as many Indigeous young people are stereotyped, he comes from a difficult home life. His mother and father are long gone and he lives solely with his Aunty (also played by Ah Kin), as his elder brother, Dane (Page), is in jail for drug dealing.
Tamara and Squid have a complicated teenage relationship that ranges from their first time to the awkwardness of using the 'L' word. After an abusive fight, Tamara is informed that her father has contracted HIV AIDS and instead of turning to Squid for support, she finds comfort in Dane’s bed the week that he is released from jail. Squid discovers Tamara’s infidelity and, like his brother, turns to the use of drugs.
Then one day at school all seems normal until there is an emergency lockdown as Squid rampages around the school, out for Tamara’s blood.
The set (designed by Justin Nadella) takes the form of half a skate park with a wire fence and at times a living room, and a classroom. With her 21st century high school uniform Tamara really does look like a year nine skank who could go to my very own school.
The play reminded me of all the people I have judged in the past, and that in a life in which Facebook and the media takes centre stage, it is easy to forget how to show compassion and understanding to those who are less fortunate.
Everyone sees Tamara on the outside without knowing her full story, which personally gives me the link to the title: Silent Disco.
Phillpot, a graduate of Victorian Collage of the Arts (directing) and NIDA (playwrights studio), is a Sydney-based (added hyphen) writer known for his play Bison and Colde. It has a unique beat of its own. Without sounding cheesy at all, it has a poetic rhythm the gives the play a meaningful soul. Phillpot has a few more scripts up his sleeve and I just can’t wait to see more.
Silent Disco was the winner of the 2009 Griffin Award, (an annual $10,000 prize for an outstanding new Australian play or performance text) and I believe it has a bright future and that there will be many more standing ovations to come.
Plays like this remind you why theatre was created.
5 out of 5
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