The Inquisition of the Big Bad Wolf manages a feat that many performance makers attempt, but few pull off: genuinely touching dance theatre with a poignant and relevant message.
Made in consultation with the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health, Big Bad Wolf strips down and then interrogates the stigmas surrounding anxiety without coming off at all preachy or didactic in its delivery.
A bare stage, a hastily assembled audio mixer, microphone, quick costume changes and three (maybe four) talented performers set the scene for Adelaide expatriate duo Prying Eye Productions’ latest offering.
Two eyes stare out from the gloom, the eponymous big bad wolf standing in for the expectations of our outcome driven society, and this striking theatrical effect is only slightly diminished by an incomplete blackout. Lights fade to reveal the aforementioned empty stage, which over the next 50 minutes will be filled with all kinds of absurdity.
With physical metaphor, tight acting and some good old-fashioned screaming into the microphone, Lizzie and Zaimon Vilmanis along with newcomer, Charles Ball, handle their subject matter with care and precision. The astute eye of dramaturge Veronica Neave is evident in the mostly affectation-free script.
Along the way to its hope-filled conclusion, we watch a rabbit become a wolf, then a unicorn and the performers bare their souls one by one without any trace of affectation or pretence. They also perform the best choreographed sequence of Beethoven’s 5th that I’ve ever witnessed (even if it does drag on a bit).
Shows like the Inquisition of the Big Bad Wolf, along with its important message about mental health, highlights the need for a conversation around the levels of support that we currently provide to our established independent artists in Australia; Prying Eye deserves to be seen by a much larger audience than they currently enjoy.
That, of course, raises the question as to how a show like this would perform on a major festival circuit when so much of it is based on the premise of an ad-hoc, Fringe-style performance. That being as things stand, I highly recommend catching it in our own Fringe Festival, while you still can.
The Inquisition of the Big Bad Wolf played at Tandanya Theatre as part of Tandanya Live Arts on March 1, and continues until the March 4.