The streets of Sydney are a strange place, at times.

Traffic lights hiccup light and billboards display pouting mouths and men in gleaming underwear, the dull heart-beat thud of car stereos, occasional approaches from beggars… plastic wrappers and women in impossible shoes.

Growing up in a small north coast town – a town sans traffic lights and billboards, where teenagers scuff around with surfboards under one arm, and lank-haired girls under the other – it’s an alien world. I feel the adrenilin rush of traffic and timetables and the blast of technology. Bits and bytes course through cables all around us. And we keep our pockets full of music, full or numbers, twisting repeating binary codes.

And in many ways when I walk into the Stables theatre for Siren Theatre Company’s latest prodcution “The New Electric Ballroom,” much of that is surrendered and forgotten. We are teleported elsewhere – to Ireland – to a small village – to a house.

Three sisters Breda (Odile Le Clezio), Clara (Genvieive mooy) and Ada (Jane Pegan) spend their time indoors talking. A pink-iced coffee cake sits loudly on the table. An unwelcome man delivers fish. It’s a carousel of dress ups and storytelling of a time gone by.

There is an elegance in simplicity – and Tom Bannerman’s set is elegantly lit by Verity Hampsen. It’s as unobtrusive as possible – a stark contrast on the back of Sam Strong’s prodcution of The Boys. Here we see a simple life of a cupboard of biscuits, and tea carefully withheld and cake never eated. Denial is wrapped around every object, every image.


Words ramble free like briar roses – sharp and beautiful from the mouths of the aging sisters.

Regret and romance embrace bitterness and restraint as heartaching agony course and rip through their bodies. Memory is performed and is rolled out as entertainment of a saddistic nature. Ada – the youngest is then trapped repeating a story she knows, but has not experienced. And truly it is the story which has kept her numb or indifferent to the potential of life or love beyond the cannery or the house. The tragedy is triple fold – the event they re-tell, the act of re-telling the event and the life which is never fully lived because of the event. Stories as life-line. Stories as poison. Stories that warn and caution, and thus inhibit – whilst in their storyteller, triggering the feeling of true life and lifeforce: emotion.

Director Kate Gaul has harnessed the energetic forces of some of Australia’s finest theatre makers to present this story about the redemptive and the stunting qualities of narratives.

And the power and the presence of words reigns supreme – as we watch the inner worlds bubble to the surface. For some the very obvious structure of the play will be a little distracting – this is a case where structure (form) feeds the story. And the story, forever on a loop, forever in a pattern – like that on an internal dialogue which won’t be surrendered. The power of regret. The power of remorse.

And we watch as the story unfolds – and at the point where life might or could change the pull of story folds the sisters in once more and we are let satisfied by the quiet agony of the pattern and haunted by the stickiness of story.