Human Activity - KXT on Broadway (NSW)
Script by Katie Pollack, directed by Suzanne Millar.
Reviewed by Natania McLeod A bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company production Season 20 September – 8 October 2023 Tickets: https://kingsxtheatre.com/human-activity
- An honest painting of society today without pretence, 'Human Activity' is a representation of compassion on a large scale -
Universal in its story and themes, Human Activity is aptly named, presented as a kaleidoscope of the faces of the various citizens in Sydney during, and in the aftermath of, the Lindt Chocolate shop siege of December 2014. Human Activity attacks several issues all in the space on 90 minutes. It dives into surviving abuse, homelessness, grief, abortion and racism. At the same time, it touches on immigration, paranoia, colonial impact on nature and attention-seeking, or rather the underlying histrionic personality that arises in many in the wake of a tragedy. With the idea that our lives intersect and our experiences are shared, compassion is the filter of this show.
The stage design, lighting and sound is artfully conceived by the efforts of Soham Apte, Benjamin Brockman, and Jessica Pizzinga. The stage is dimly lit with golden bird cages hanging from the ceiling and a raised two-tiered flat surface that mainly serves as both a train as the supporting cast form its commuters and the steps of Martin Place.
Human Activity Cast (2023). Images: David Hooley.
The scene opens with two women, one homeless played by Katherine Shearer, and the other an abuse survivor, portrayed by Trishala Shamara, who has snuck out from her home on the day the siege occurs to get an abortion. The latter has her cash for the procedure stuffed in a sock, but it has been lost somewhere. While a search by both women for the missing money takes place, another search is about to begin for a lost suitcase (containing the items of their departed daughter) belonging to an elderly couple, adorably played by Claudette Clark and Phillip Lye. They are reluctantly aided by a face familiar to all large cities around the world, a security guard, played by Atharv Kolhatkar.
Surrounding these two intertwining searches that represent loss, fear and hope, are an amazing supporting cast playing multiple roles, rubber necking brats who take tragedy as an opportunity to act popular, commuters on the train, a flock of birds and other individual characters. Karina Bracken shines through as the most realistic bird I’ve ever witnessed, representing the heart of Sydney. Playing head of the flock, she raises the impact everyone has had on the environment. Mason Phoumirath and Josephine Gazard bring to life a couple with different priorities lost in the busy lives of the everyday Sydneysider and excel as the most annoying high schoolers. Madhullikaa Singh beautifully plays a water vendor whose “Me Too” scenario at her corporate job resulted in loss of employment. Teresa Tate Britten is the florist who takes up her husband’s job in the wake of the catastrophe when he receives racist threats. A smile always on her face, Britten well contains the quote, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about”.
...leaves you to make your own conclusions about how you want to treat your fellow human.
Shearer stunningly and energetically gives a genuinely authentic portrayal of the homeless who sleep on our streets, completely transporting us. Shamara’s portrayal of a woman on the precipice of a life-changing decision is well landed, raw and beautiful. Kolhatkar’s security guard was wonderfully executed, a picture of humour and overbearing self-appointed responsibility. He represents the face of so many of Sydney’s public servants, potentially incensing us with ticket issuing, yet showing, they could be the person to touch lives. Clark and Lye’s mom and dad were masterfully performed, their genuine backing of each other throughout was flawless.
But it is not all heavy. Kate Pollack’s work is a piece of intelligent writing, inter-weaving funny quips throughout which the actors timely played. The work presents as an honest painting of society today without pretence. Suzanne Millar’s direction artfully gives a clean view of chaotic city scenes. Her choreography is elegantly arranged, with the cast smoothly and realistically placed into flowing scenes between human traffic, trains and stop points around Martin Pace. Millar brings a great pace to this work and creates a clear through line for the audience to follow. It is clear the cast of ten were well supported through this rehearsal process of this work.
A must-see this season at KXT on Broadway, Human Activity gives an audience the chance to experience a range of emotions and leaves you to make your own conclusions about how you want to treat your fellow human.
HUMAN ACTIVITY - KXT ON BROADWAY
Director Suzanne Millar
Production Design Soham Apte
Lighting Design Benjamin Brockman
Sound Design Jessica Pizzinga
Production Photographer Campbell Parsons
Assistant Director Charlie Vaux
Stage Managers Andrew McMartin & Juliana Nikol
Producers John Harrison & Neel Bannerjee
Claudette Clarke, Phil Lye, Atharv Kolhatkar, Trishala Sharma, Katherine Shearer, Teresa Tate Britten, Karina Bracken, Madhu Singh, Mason Phourimath, Josephine Gazard
presented by bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company & Nautanki theatre
Commissioned by bAKEHOUSE as part of bACE - the bAKEHOUSE Artistic and Cultural Exchange