The Unspoken Word is Joe (MKA: Theatre of New Writing)
Theatre Republic, The Loft
September 10 – 14
Following on from its Powerhouse production, “The Economist”, at this year’s World Theatre Festival, MKA: Theatre of New Writing is back in Brisbane with another brilliant and beguiling festival show. By its blurb, “The Unspoken Word is Joe’” suggests a cliched, self-indulgent theatre exploration of relationship breakdown. The reality is, however, that no expectation can prepare audience members for the experience of this clever, well-executed play. Although it begins as a play reading of a work by Zoey Dawson, before long, it is evident that this is ‘Inception theatre’ (a play within a play reading), as conflict escalates between the actors gathered on stage, scripts in hand. Beyond this, it is difficult to explain the narrative without detracting from the experience. And it is quite an experience, involving fourth wall breaks and set destruction.
“The Unspoken Word is Joe” is very clever in its premise. What drives the work, however, is the quality of the performances of all five characters (six if you count stage technician Kevin.) As tormented young playwright Zoey, Emily Goddard gives a strong performance, demonstrating an extreme emotional range without resorting to melodrama. Indeed, the script features some eloquent, poignant monologue insights. Yet, these are wonderfully tempered by moments of unexpected, wicked humour. Georgina Capper, as ‘the woman who reads the stage directions,’ projects perfect comic timing, while Devon Lang Wilton’s crazy, fun girl is hilariously over-the-top.
In combination, this makes for refreshingly smart and rewarding theatre. And though I was initially disarmed by the informal, incomplete set and later longed for the catharsis of a concrete conclusion, its unorthodoxy is its undeniable strength; it is easy to appreciate its previous awards and sell-out festival seasons. Despite having no expectations of how the show would progress, I loved it. Or maybe it was due to this, because “The Unspoken Word is Joe” is nothing if not unpredictable.