The Lies We Were Told - ARA Darling Quarter Theatre (NSW)
Presented by Monkey Baa, created by Shopfront Arts Co-Op. Directed by Natalie Rose. Presented during Sydney WorldPride.
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
ARA Darling Quarter Theatre
21 Feb — 23 Feb 2023
- Perfect for the young, and the young at heart, Shopfront & Monkey Baa's team up puts talented young performers front and centre -
Shopfront Arts Co-Op calls their production The Lies We Were Told, “the little production that could”. Starting as a devised piece by a group of young theatre makers, the original production was delayed by the pandemic, eventually staged and re-staged at Shopfront Arts and now shuffled its way into Sydney thanks to Monkey Baa theatre company. This fresh Australian production questions the lies we tell ourselves as a society, told by young people, for young people and the young versions inside all of us. It’s no wonder that The Lies We Were Told has endured thus far.
The show begins with the diverse group of performers lying on the stage, questioning a myriad of lies we are told throughout our lives, from the soft, white lies (carrots make you see in the dark) to the larger, more significant lies (the lie told to suppress a queer identity) and the downright absurd (pigeons are government controlled robotic spies!).
Credit: Monkey Baa, Clare Hawley
Throughout the production, more is revealed, with curtains dropping, lies tumbling from hidden banners, boxes being bowled over and the set’s large illuminated columns transcending into staged flats. Daniel Potter’s design is at times cramped with a lot of whizz bang devices that create paths for the actors to manoeuvre around, but does manage to relay the notion of these lies being pulled away one by one, ultimately becoming a pile of discoveries on the floor.
The fact that director Natalie Rose has the young performers change the set adds to the message that children aren’t naive individuals who should be seen but not heard. Instead, the piece is devised to show them stripping away the lies they are told, and discovering their truth.
Performers Alana Saidi, Megan Harrison, Gil Gracie, Jack Waters, Astra Milne, Olivia Tsigaropoulos, Miah Tito-Barratt, Noam Sen Gupta, Sunny Morris, Tom Anderson, Tom Harper and Tristan Holmes each work admirably to bring their devised piece to life with warmth, humour and heart.
The cast manage to...contend with other independent theatre productions floating around Sydney’s theatres.
Anderson’s skill stands out amongst the cast, showing a depth of experience and bravado as he, quite literally, holds the audience’s silence through a debate between the preference of big and little lies. Even kicking a certain reviewer out of their seat to position himself amongst the audience seemed not to deter him!
Whilst each member’s input brings their own personal touches to the show, there are standout moments. Harper’s emotional trauma in the ‘Orange Chicken’ story was a clear highlight in its absurdity. Sen Gupta’s opening monologue brought a softness to the show, revealing its deeper nature. Water’s vocal strength permeated the space, bringing with him a clear stage presence and humour throughout. Harrison’s commitment to each line showed an ability to connect with each castmate, and position herself firmly through each segment. Further use of projection from some of the performers could have been utilised further as some lines were dropped and it was clear that the audience were dying to hang on to every word.
Rose and the team at Shopfront excel in their ability to put young people front and centre of the stage. Through allowing them to develop a piece that was wholly their own, under the watchful eye and support of Rose’s direction, the cast manage to avoid the dreaded “HSC Drama Performance” tone, and instead contend with other independent theatre productions floating around Sydney’s theatres.
This is a perfect theatre night to take your younglings to, and could even be great if you’re passing by and need your inner child nurtured for an evening. The Lies We Were Told is the little show that keeps on developing, so keep an eye out for where it pops up next!
Director Natalie Rose
Assistant Director Nicole Pingon
Assistant Director Sharleen Ndlovu
Set & Lighting Designer Daniel Potter
Composer Prema Yin
Production Manager Tyler Fitzpatrick
Producer Valentina Corona
Associate Producer Lily Hayman
Noam Sen Gupta