Holy horror and humour
By Myron My
The Martyrs is the first production by new company Sly Rat Theatre that looks at religion, the church, and its scandalous history of child sexual abuse and pornography. Despite the heavy themes, it somehow manages to create a great balancing act between being horrifying and humorous.
There was however an unfortunate feeling of general miscasting between the actors and the characters they were portraying except in the case of David Ryan Kinsman as Pastor Mike Foster, the zealous and energetic leader of the ‘Earthquakers’ who really jumped in and let himself be enveloped by the role. Another notable mention would go to Marika Marosszeky who played the adult-porn writer Valerie with great conviction.
The inclusion of a Jim Henson-esque ‘horror’ puppet as Chloe Barker was an intriguing decision. The collaboration of puppeteer (Cameron Powell) and voice actor (and producer Jennifer Piper) was very charming and humorous to watch. The swap from puppet to human was also an interesting idea which worked quite well. In contrast, the use of the clucking chicken-like anti-pornography group as an ongoing metaphor did pull you out of the show, and the narrative could have done with a little more clarity in direction as at times, as the plot did get rather too confusing and abstract for a truly enjoyable performance.
Ryan Hodge’s lighting and set design was very impressive. Throughout The Martyrs, scenes were lit in delicate degrees of brightness and shadow, playing with the idea of good and evil, light and dark, and sex and religion. The scenes that really stick in my mind are those where the actors are only seen as dark silhouettes and thus creating a very powerful impact. It was great to see the stage fully utilised and the performance being brought out into the audience: also, having us sitting in makeshift church pews helped to further create a strong connection to the themes being played out.
The Martyrs is a very ambitious first production by director Alan Chambers and writer Andy Harmsen and because of the strengths mentioned above and despite the issues noted, they have ultimately created an entertaining and reflective piece of theatre.
Venue: Revolt Productions, 12 Elizabeth Street Kensington, 3101
Season: Until 16 March (except 11th) | 9:00pm, Sun 2:00pm
Tickets: $28 Full | $25 Concession