Grim tales woven together with heavenly music and powerful imagery
By Margaret Wieringa
Chairs are strewn across a bare stage, and a few other items, hard to distinguish, lie in piles. Three actors in the orange jumpsuits recognisable as those worn by people incarcerated in US prisons are in place around the stage. As the lights come down, one begins to address a prisoner on death row who has only a few minutes to live, while the others whisper, possibly prayers. Thus begins the intense journey of I Am A Miracle.
The title comes from the last words of Marvin Lee Wilson, a man with an extremely low IQ who was executed in 2012. Such a low IQ should have prevented his death, but did not. Declan Greene wrote this play for Marvin, to document various miscarriages of justice. There is the story of a young Dutch solider in Africa in the eighteenth century, sent on a mission through the jungle to quell a slave uprising, and that of a man in Melbourne entrapped by his carer.
This is a hard production to watch; the Malthouse publicity has the message that this is “not for the timid”. The story of the Dutch soldier has images that are hard to forget, and while the boy is seventeen, Melita Jurisic brings an innocence and purity to the character that makes him seem so much younger, so much easier to be broken. Later, she plays the carer (and possibly partner?) of Bert LaBonté‘s character, and while this woman seems to have the emotional control, he is clearly physically able to overpower her. It is the music, notably the beautiful singing of Hana Lee Crisp, that ultimately brings the pieces of the play together. Crisp drifts through the performance, or stands aside, like some kind of angel.
At times, the combination of the soundscape and music and lighting are overwhelming, as though director Matthew Lutton is deliberately creating a religious experience. Indeed, the powerful climax is the world being reborn, blinding the audience with light and deafening with sound. While I must admit that I did not understand everything that happened, it was a theatrical event that I am very glad I experienced.
Where: Malthouse Theatre, Sturt St Southbank
When: July 18 – Aug 9.
Box Office: www.malthousetheatre.com.au
WARNING: Contains dynamic sound, strobe lighting and some adult language.