Interactive theatre can be stimulating. In the case of Day After Terrible Day, while creative, I found it totally perplexing.
Upon arrival, patrons are divided into groups and led to the double doors of what turns out to be an unfinished mansion. Once ushered inside, perched on a 10-rung ladder at the back of the theatre is a woman dressed in white bemoaning what happened to her. Around the room are seven chandeliers, a clear cabinet on wheels containing dried flowers and a very long table, boasting a five-tier, white wedding cake. The woman utters expressions such as “you said you’d call”, “you said you’d be here”, “a pledge”, “a declaration”, “your word”. These utterances are repeated throughout the show.
It turns out that she and her hubby to be were renovating their forever home and preparing to grow old together when he left her at the altar. To be more accurate, he disappeared the night before the wedding. The rest of the performance is a recollection of the good times and how she misses him, complete with projections, occasional music and even dance. Four masked performers, now dressed primarily in green and wearing latex face masks, relay the story, such that it is.
They play a game where they name his great qualities and they speak about their sexual exploits. On the occasions they talk in unison, they are difficult to understand. They make it clear that he failed to live up to his promise to be there, to stick fat. He offered love, warmth, comfort, adoration, care, safety and more, but all that evaporated long ago. Yet, each day, they hope in vain that he will show up on the doorstep. They wonder whether loving them was a burden … whether he actually loved them. They query where he is. Short of feeling justifiably aggrieved and sorry for themselves, I was left disappointed that the narrative didn’t go any further.
I felt the play didn’t evolve as it could have. As much as I would have liked it to there was nothing that surprised me about Day After Terrible Day. The Danger Ensemble’s artistic director and designer Steven Mitchell Wright says the company is committed to exploring new territory and creating theatrical experiments. This is certainly that. He also says Day After Terrible Day is the first of a new suite of boutique works exploring our relationship with love, memory and sex.
Only by clicking onto the Theatre Works website after I exited did I learn more about the production*. There it tells me that Day After Terrible Day is based on the true story of a South African-born Sydney woman named Eliza Emily Donnithorne. She was jilted on her wedding day and found 30 years later, still in her bridal gown – the wedding feast uneaten and decayed to dust. So, there you have it.
Notwithstanding this revelation, I am still left asking just who this theatrical experience will appeal to? The artsy crowd. Perhaps. It would certainly have fitted comfortably into the recently completed Melbourne Fringe Festival. Unfortunately, I found the piece stretched and without much to commend it apart from the bizarre. It is playing at Theatre Works until 12th November, 2022.
* I believe a show needs to stand up on its own and I prefer to enter a theatre without knowing what I am walking into.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- The Nightingale and the Rose (Theatre Works) – theatre review
- Dybbuks (Theatre Works) – theatre review
- Cygnets (Theatre Works’ Explosives Factory) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.