Relevant, contemporary and edgy as all fuck, this is theatre with a message and a meaning; tackling, head-on, Australia’s “fear of the other” and, more specifically, in response to our times, the plain fact that over 20 percent of our population expresses fear or mistrust in Islam and in our Muslim brothers and sisters. But writer, Joanna Murray-Smith doesn’t stop here, as, along the way, it also brings into contention wealth, affluence, aspiration and class, presenting an all-too-truthful narrative that details how anyone can be radicalized; irrespective of background or belief.
In this narrative we meet two families; the first is privileged comfortable and middle class, the second from a working class background. Each has a son enrolled, the later- through scholarship, at an elitist private school. These boys share a confronting, frayed and messy relationship that leads them, early one morning, to deface the local mosque. In wake, their parents continue to throw blame at themselves and each other. The school reveals itself as no more than a well-oiled PR machine, a ravenous desire for prosecution is expressed by the police, while the local Imam wishes to not ‘stir the pot’, refusing to hand over evidence which could substantiate charges being laid for hate crimes. We hear, through the voice of a fair skinned child, racist and fraught sentiments that we all know to be bubbling away just under the surface of everything that surrounds us in society, and it is a dark and uncomfortable truth.
Part of what makes this exploration into such a dark terrain successful is how it harnesses humour to warm and to endear, there are some beautiful and side-splitting one-liners littered throughout. Some even crossing a line, making our laughter questionable, but in the age of political correctness, perhaps theatre and art is the last place in which we can have a frank discourse without fear of repercussions. In this tightly wound script, beautiful monologues also appear; in closing scenes, the detailing of ‘a bomb ripping through crowds amassed at a footy match’ leaves a grubby impression post-performance, you wish to scrub away.
The interchanging scenes and revolving curtain are a sumptuous affair, deliberately chaotic scene changes with their rough edges help frame this production’s frenetic energy as whole. Together with an interspersing soundtrack, the work is given an almost cinematic quality, Red Stitch continue to prove that it doesn’t take money, but imagination to create works high on production values and aesthetics. The performances given are faultless, and co-directors Brett Cousins and Ella Caldwell prove a successful partnership.
Fury takes no sides, and doesn’t present a situation where an “us and them” could in anyway emerge and, yes, for some this could be an uncomfortable experience but, Australia, we do need to talk. Though much can be said about how, outside of the theatre, a work’s message can, sometimes, be lost; for argument’s sake, let us ignore this and, perhaps, hold onto hope that something of this work can infiltrate into greater society, because conversations like this are sorely needed.