Review: Superheroes

by Jane

I don’t know what they were for, but Superheroes on Thursday was proceeded by a really spectaular fireworks show over the Torrens.  I don’t know what it was for, but it was great, and should happen before all shows!  So perfectly timed, too, the last bang and then you hear the bells and “The Dunstan Playhouse is now open.”  Perfect.

This review was very hard to write.  I had so many thoughts after the show, good and bad, and I was deep in the middle of a great conversation about it when the other events of Thursday night happened.   When I came to write this, I really struggled to get those thoughts back in the same coherent way which I had been composing in my head.

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Taking place over the course of a day, Superheros shows the life of five patients, their nurse, his nephew, and an un-localised rest home. As lines between reality and delusions, and who is a patient and who is staff are blurred, Stone/Castro attempt to “[explore] the chaotic human mess that us not only brought about by war but initiates war and violence.” 

Yet the script by Paulo Castro (who also appears in the play) chooses to spell out every thought and action of each character, to the point where nothing is left unsaid, and rather is repeated (sometimes word for word) multiple times. This style leads to stilted delivery on behalf of the actors, stiffening the connection that can be made with them, and thus a connection to the broad themes of the play.

But while the script may be lacking, the play carries with it many engaging visual moments, from the simple recreation of the Superman flying pose with Castro prone over a mobility scooter, through to stylised dance sequences, and video projections. Director (and cast member) Jo Stone’s choreography adds details to the situation and characters otherwise missing from the script.

The combination of live action and video media (designed by Nic Mollison) is used to show the delusions of an Iraq war veteran (Nick Bennett), as images of the war come to life through video and then expanded as a solider (Nigel Major-Henderson) physically moves onto the stage. These elements integrating with Wendy Todd’s design, a sparse and unloved rehab facility, gave the best insight into the mind of Bennett’s character, and to the themes of violence and what we will pass down onto our children.

Visually, the play succeeds where the text fails: the Director’s note talks of how “our ideals define the landscape of the world our children will inherit”, and the plot synopsis tells us the play “is a provocative reflection on the complexity of Globalization, the future, violence and war.” None of these ideas are fleshed out enough in the text to be truly provocative. The characters are too fallen; they lie too far to the edges of mental health that they and the themes they talk about are not truly relatable.

Nevertheless, when Stone uses the actors to physically express the story, strength in the themes is found, and if these areas were expanded and pushed further, with just a slightly pared back script, it feels as if then they could perhaps tell the story as deep as the themes it tries to be about.

Stone/Castro in Association with Adelaide Festival Centre’s inSPACE Program Presents Superheroes World Premiere.  Written by Paulo Castro, directed by Jo Stone, design by Wendy Todd, lighting by Kerry Ireland, video by Nic Mollison, sound by Sascha Budimski.  With Paulo Castro, Jo Stone, Julian Crotti, Hew Parham, Nigel Major-Hederson, Nick Bennet and Lewis Rankin.