Friday night’s opening of Michael Abercromby’s latest show FRONT served up a hypnotic mix of theatre, banter and music – and a few c bombs to go along with it.
After walking down the basement stairs into the State Theatre Centre’s Rehearsal Room, the audience encountered four band members who just couldn’t seem to play their tunes right. The ensuing story followed the band’s struggle of trying to make it in the music industry, and highlighted the fleeting nature of success, and the ambivalence that accompanies this process. The narrative was familiar, with many of the themes and issues explored (dissidence, demanding record labels, drugs) emerging straight out of a band biopic.
The rehearsal room space added a sense of authenticity to the familiar narrative, and allowed for some intimate moments later in the play. The soundscape was particularly commendable, with the characters regularly playing live, which added an intricate dynamism and layers of realism to the performance.
This authenticity too was encapsulated by the characters – with a particular nod to front man Isaac Diamond, playing “Vocals,” who recalled every arts student in a band that you’ve ever met. Often the characters descended into stereotypes of industry professionals – the drug using guitarist, the egotistical front man, the idiot, the threatening record producer – whose antics provided many a laugh to the audience. Particular mention too goes to Mary Soudi, who traversed roles between hot bass guitarist and psychotic record producer with ease.
Underneath the play’s laughs there was a serious narrative about power, ego and love that burst through in some beautiful moments of dialogue. The purposeful engagement with stereotypes worked well in a story that concerned itself with authenticity, and is perhaps owing to Abercromby’s own life experience trying to succeed in a band in Perth.
The issues of power the play touched on are eternal, with some of its main preoccupations being if it is possible to separate the art from the artist, or the ego from the self. Answers to the play’s serious questions were mostly sought after in the bottom of Emu Export cans, or unseen moments of violent catharsis – which added a sense of comic relatability, but ultimately left me thirsty for more. This is a play that mashes philosophical soliloquies with prolific swearing, boasts a soundscape of audience applause with applause from the real, in-house audience, and frequently likens music to sex – with characters crying after one of these two experiences. FRONT is well paced, ballsy and pretty f*kn tasty.
FRONT runs until the 26th of January at the State Theatre Centre. Tickets can be purchased here.
Words by Aimee Dodds | Arts Editor