Bare Witness, by Mari Lourey, has been in development for many years and is a meticulously researched play. As a work of performance, it is wonderful, employing eloquent and dramatic theatrical devices, multi-media, and some terrific physicality where the actors turn themselves inside out to say the unsay-able. The play creates with authenticity and verve the fraught hyper-reality of the world of the foreign correspondent, often in peril, living an unholy and thrilling existence surrounded by horror, and all the while documenting it. The play gives us to understand how the war journalist is very nearly another sort of human being. Bravery exists in all sorts of guises but very few of us are required to demonstrate the sort of immediate courage required of a photojournalist in a war zone. It’s an extraordinary thing to bring to life in an inner-city theatre space this sort of atmosphere and tension and it is to the credit of the team involved in Bare Witness that it succeeds in this so well. The form of the play itself crosses boundaries; it is, as well as a drama, a work of choreography. The live music score adds to the frequent effect of breathlessness and numerous devices are brought into play to serve the world it is portraying. You can nearly smell tear gas, sweat and blood.
There’s no mistaking the commitment, neither of direction nor any of the performances; Daniela Farinacci lives up to her reputation as the young journalist Dani Hall, forced to her limits struggling to stay human in a surreal existence requiring inhuman detachment.
Paradoxically, the play’s theatrical strengths and beauties almost work against it. There was so much going on that I found it hard to follow Dani’s story or get a strong sense of who she really was, although I could see her changing. Often it was hard to hear the dialogue because of the (admittedly terrific) live soundtrack. The animations and visuals work well, although are over utilized; the symbolic wolf motif in particular becomes annoying. All the effects are varied and lovely but there are almost too many of them, creating a kind of theatrical self-consciousness. The play almost stamps its foot in its insistence on significance and worthiness.
I was greatly impressed with Bare Witness but not moved by it. I wanted to be moved but so much tearing and leaping from experience to experience didn’t allow me enough intimacy with the characters or a real connection with the story. Bare Witness is a beautifully realized work that perhaps will be best savoured by other theatre makers. It is stunning on so many levels, but a deep engagement with the protagonist and the narrative eluded this reviewer.
by Mari Lourey
Directed by Nadja Kostich
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs | 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Dates: 10 – 26 September 2010
Times: 7.30pm Tuesday – Saturday, 6.00pm Sunday
Bookings: (03) 9662 9966
Image: Maria Theodorakis in Bare Witness, photographed by Marg Horwell.