I had not been to see any sort of live theatre in a very long time. The short play I managed to get to sometime in early 2021 now seems like a hazy dream of which I can only recall brief flashes.
So, an evening with Rawcus Theatre in the Malthouse outdoor space was a delightful way to dip my toe back into the water that is live performance.
Rawcus teamed up with a group of queer and allied young people to “explode the word hero into a thousand pieces and save you from it.”
The collaborative, devised work was playful and clever. There were a lot of references to Die Hard of which most (all) of my knowledge comes from other film and TV, mostly Jake Peralta, so some things may have gone straight over my head. Nevertheless, I appreciated the creativity and the commentary on heroism.
A series of loosely connected vignettes explored what makes an ordinary person heroic or villainous, which to my brain didn’t quite come together, but were still individually entertaining and affecting.
A standout scene was seeing a line-up of performers battling internally with the heroic struggles that come from having a body or brain that doesn’t always, or ever, behave in ways that society has deemed appropriate or regular.
What really stood out was the sound design. Each audience member was issued a headset through which most of the show’s dialogue, and all the music and sound was played. It gave a very real sense that a lot of the dialogue we were hearing was actually the performers’ internal monologue. This was fun and interesting, and I really appreciated it. Yet it was also where the experience fell down for me.
The entire performance was Auslan interpreted and there was also a scene that took place entirely in Auslan, with no English interpretation. I thought this was clever and wonderful, making excellent points about access and exclusion. But it made the lack of consideration when it came to audio description even more obvious.
The AD was delivered in person, with the describer sitting at the table with anyone who had booked in to receive audio description. The most basic issue with this method of delivery was that there was one audio describer at one table, so if more than five patrons required audio description it would have been at best difficult, and at worst impossible.
I was heavily into the headset delivery, with different streams of sound coming through different channels and different ears. But I wasn’t able to appreciate it fully, as in order to hear the describer I had to have one of the headphones almost completely off.
This rather ruined the experience for me, as all I kept thinking was, why wasn’t the audio description incorporated into the story and the sound design in the way Auslan was? It was a perfect opportunity that was completely missed. It meant blind and vision impaired audiences were not able to take full advantage of the performance the way it deserved to be experienced.
If an innovative, playful AD track had been incorporated into the headset sound design, I truly believe the whole experience would have been elevated and even more powerful.
A Resourceful Hero Struggling Against Incredible Odds runs until the 13 February 2022 at the Malthouse Outdoor Theatre, Melbourne.