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Sydney Review: Weird and wonderful Like Me

Costumes and make-up immerse the audience in an alternate world. Photo by Chris Evans

Like Me

Written by Angela Blake, Charles Upton, Duncan Maurice, Moreblessing Maturure, Sharon Zeeman Directed by Duncan Maurice

Presented by Mongrel Mouth

Merchant’s House

43-45 George Street, The Rocks

Season 18 June – 11 July 8 pm

Mongrel Mouth’s production, Like Me, will transport you to another world - one with stark differences from the world we live in, yet which abstractly and analytically hones in on some pointed features of contemporary society.

The cultural movement to define one’s identity on social media is examined, as a hostile competition based on superficial criteria unfolds, and the public downfall of an individual once held on a pedestal is relished.

The original Merchant’s House is utilised to juxtapose the known with the unknown – the performance space being an original 19th century house, and yet its insides, at first glance, seem to be totally unfamiliar.

Costume and make-up by Alex P. F. Jackson and set design by Gemma O’Nions is championed in this work, serving to create and immerse the audience in an alternate world.

A cacophony of colours descends on the audience at the entrance to the house, complemented by the vast entanglement of wires and dismembered computer parts.

I can see this as a metaphor for the deconstruction of a technologically centred society, culminating in total loss of functionality. Every room in the house is occupied by a character and enhanced by a design work that the audience is encouraged to explore.

An inherent fascination with outsiders comes to the fore in this work, set in a derelict treatment centre where the main characters are patients admitted to the centre for extensive physical reconstruction and supposed mental rehabilitation.

Like Me depicts a refracted portrayal of contemporary society, taking pertinent issues and themes and regurgitating them to an audience as a metamorphosed version of the familiar world. An estrangement from the characters that reflect our personal behaviour permits for a space of self-reflection.

It is an achievement to present a theatrical experience that initially seems so enigmatic, when in fact it reveals great insight into our everyday lives. The work is a true immersive experience whereby audience interaction with the characters is integral to the performance in helping to progress the plotline.

It is curious to watch the audience evolve in their engagement with the performers and belief in the concept, as well as in their sense of community as their role is not to be a mere spectator, but an active participant.

Each character possessed a distinct personality, with varying motivations and tendencies to attract audience attention. This served to reach a relative equilibrium between the characters, as some worked to counter the more extreme personalities to reduce the intensity of the overall experience.

This was a welcome approach, as it can be quite tiring to be such an active participant in a full-length show. This issue emphasises the phenomenal energy the performers generate night after night to recreate the experience, holding absolute focus and maintaining their persona in the midst of unpredictable improvisation required. A clear workshopping process of each character took place, developing specificity of their background, which shapes their mannerisms and interaction with humans. This process equipped the performers to respond to unpredictable audience input with great integrity and precision. This general process also allows for an evolving understanding of the character, as audience contributions trigger a fresh circumstance that insists upon a change in the character to authentically respond.

Like Me is a theatrical wonderland that reflects more about our day to day lives than people might think at first.

In embracing the unorthodox experience, the audience could fully appreciate the carefully constructed and bizarre idiosyncrasies of this world that in turn serve to deconstruct societal norms that are pretty nonsensical in themselves.

Using the weird to unveil the weirder, Mongrel Mouth presents the audience with a unique opportunity to be a direct part of this process in the theatrical marvel that is Like Me.

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