Back to punk
By Caitlin McGrane
Marcel Dorney’s Prehistoric is a raucous, lively, beautiful and heart-breaking look at the punk scene in Brisbane in 1979. It struck so many chords with me that I could barely stop smiling throughout. The play took me back to when I decided, aged twelve, to become a punk: it was simultaneously joyous and uncomfortable in the best possible way.
Before the play begins, the performers speak directly to the audience, inviting us to come with them back to 1979, a most convincing way to get an audience to turn off their phones. The play opens as we are introduced to the four characters: Barbara, Rachel, Nick and Pete. They’re all young, angry, and frustrated by their surrounds: prime for the allure of punk. There’s a song they all remember hearing that catapults them away from the humdrum of their lives and into the boisterous world of a punk band formed in Barb’s living room. They’re all immediately sympathetic and I fell in love with every one of them.
As the story unfurls, the performance covers an awful lot of ground: abuse, mental illness, police brutality, rape and sexuality. All of these topics are handled in the most sensitive and evocative way, never turning to cliché or hamstrung ideas to get their message across. What is most striking about this play is that the themes and concerns are just as relevant today as they were in 1979.
It slightly lost its way in the third act, but despite this it remained fairly compelling. It could have been shorter by about ten to fifteen minutes, but that is a small gripe when the rest of the performance was so spectacular.
The production values were all excellent and I particularly enjoyed the way the lights behind the audience invoked the idea of the police without having any additional presence on stage. Every off-stage role was superbly characterised through voice techniques and I would challenge you to sit through the scene between Rachel and the police without squirming. I look forward to Elbow Room’s next production and Dorney is definitely one to watch.
Prehistoric is on every night from now until 5 October at 9pm in Studio Two of the Northcote Town Hall. Tickets are $26 at http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/prehistoric/