“The world has changed. There’s no fresh water and machines have taken all the jobs.”- this is Hydra, the latest work by award the winning Melbourne collective Double Water Sign and written by Rachel Perks and directed by Bridget Balodis. You may be familiar with the work of this company through previous productions Ground Control (2016) and Moral Panic (2018), like previous works, Hydra is nothing if not challenging.
It seemed poetic that on the rescheduled opening night of this new dystopian fantasy set sometime in the future, the rain would pour outside. The sound of it pounding on the roof of Northcote Town Hall was a fitting backdrop to this bleak picture of a future Australia which seems even now, not that distant.
Hydra is a blistering two hander between performers Sapidah Kian who deviates between the roll of good and bad cop, and Casey Filips whose character is at once angry and naive. The premise here is interesting and for the most part well-wrought. In this not-too-distant future the status quo has changed, men are of the lesser, and giving centres have been established, where life is traded for water and in extension the life of another.
There are a number of tropes littered throughout this work which tie it evermore to the present moment. From Australia’s aging population to a new pandemic, each layer of this work once exposed gives way to another more menacing turn.
The queer undertones which are present in Hydra continued to flicker to the surface like bright sparking embers, though this should come as little of a surprise given the creative team at work here.
At times though the script bordered momentarily on the tedious, opening monologues by Kian felt as though they could have been extended further and while half of these opening passages paint in the detail of Hydra’s overarching narrative, the other half, at least to me, came across as a little confused.
Between the rain which poured outside, and the ending of the performance being signalled by climate change anthem 4 Degrees by Anhoni- the boundaries between what is real here and what is imagined blurred in a way which left a feeling of unease.
Set and costume design is here the work of James Lew, with Amelia Lever-Davidson responsible for lighting, rounded out by Daniella Esposito’s sound design, all of which work to an adequate degree, but ultimately take a back seat to the real star of the show, which is Perk’s writing.
All in all, Hydra is a brilliant mediation upon contemporary themes, and as a performance packs one hell of a punch, which really solidifies the space held by this collective within Melbourne and Australia’s creative landscapes.