Writer: Lachlan Philpott
Director: Fraser Corfield
The Rebel Theatre
June 24 – July 17, 2022
Lachlan Philpott’s M. Rock has something important to say about our compulsively label-driven world and says it in a very funny and sweetly eccentric way. Under Fraser Corfied’s attentive direction, this production captures perfectly the mix of the magical and satirical that characterise Philpott’s remix of the perceived generation gap. Both the young and old are the “victims” of what others – assorted experts, the media and policy makers – decide is good for them and at a time when both are looking to give meaning to their lives.
Tracey Mudge (an endearingly gawky Milena Barraclough Nesic) has just finished school and been accepted into a nursing course. With time to fill in she decides to go overseas to escape Bankstown and her anxious cardigan-clutching, waspish mother Kerry (Bryn Chapman Parish). She finds an ally in her grandmother, Mabel (at this stage an appealingly comforting Valerie Bader) who lives the prescribed widowed senior citizen’s life surrounded by memorabilia, knitting for charity, and making scones. Mabel supports Tracey’s desire for a new version of herself, poignantly recalling the trajectory of her own life. “Are you now the person you once thought you would be?” she asks herself.
The ingenuous Tracey finds the exciting scenario she’s been looking for in Berlin – stranded without money, generously offered a shared house and living “off-the-grid”, going to clubs from midnight to mid-morning, sleeping all afternoon and eating “recycled” food. At first, she’s not too concerned about losing contact with home but those at home are worried and a resolute Mabel sets off to find her. However, Mabel too loses sight of her original mission and when the opportunity offers to recover the lost and immortal self of her youth, she seizes the day.
For both Tracey and Mabel, the opportunity to find themselves comes in its different ways through the god-like celebrity DJ, Hindenburg (Darius Williams). It is this magical figure, a latter-day ageless Count Germaine, who sends Tracey off to Berlin where she finds her temporary Nirvana and who hands Mabel the key to reinventing herself as M. Rock, the powerful granny DJ. His rejection of the love-smitten Tracey reconnects her with home and vocation, while his desire for the newly refurbished Mabel frees her from the ties that bound her to hearth and home. Rather than dancing to someone else’s tune Mabel and Tracey both find their own beat.
One of the joys of this production are the three support actors who play multiple roles, their different characters indicated by simple costume changes – Kerry identified psychologically by her cardigan and the “off-the-grid” clubber (a very funny Parish) by his down-to-earth hat. Whether doctor or up-market boutique owner, they pop in or out from the economical and appropriately dimmed stage set with impeccable timing, sing melodically (Masego Pitso), heave around stairs representing taxis or double as taxi-drivers Lucky in Africa or Funky (both Williams) in Berlin.
Whatever the phases of their journey to their new selves, both Bader and Nesic are engaging and lovable. The ingenuous Nesic, in elaborately patterned mesh stockings and tiny top, dancing awkwardly – all gangly legs and arms – is able to simultaneously convey the free and dynamic figure she sees in her imagination. And Bader is so memorable responding to the call of unrestrained nature in the mud of an African river and then ironically summoned up by Tracey to perform a dreamy litany of her daily routine – knitting, scones, roast lamb, roast pork – from the presumed safety of Bankstown.