After being one of the perhaps three people in Sydney to have missed the much acclaimed and awarded “The Dark Room” at Belvoir in 2011, I leaped like a proverbial lizard at the opportunity to see her play Helicopter at Melbourne Theatre Company.

My preference is always, to see new (ie original) new Australian plays.

So how could I keep away?

It’s advisable to read the thoughts of Cameron Woodhead Here: http://cameronwoodhead.com/archives/helicopter-review/
And Alison Croggon here : http://theatrenotes.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/review-helicopter.html

On a stage of various levels (half steps and full steps up) and white wooden beams jagged as roof beams that seem to echo the architectural obviousness of the MTC itself, a variety of light filled areas make up the suburban world we are to identify with. There are moments of naturalism interrupted with theatrical device – the work swings between the literal and the abstract. There is a bunny cage down stage right. And a mysterious compartment in the floor where things are revealed and concealed. The design seems overly functional and not very aesthetically evocative or thematically offered. It’s a bare-basics feel. This could be the set to many (or any) play.

That short sharp interchange of dialogue has for a long-time (10 or 15 year at least) been a poetic flavour of new work – sharp intersections of language. It is a style that Holloway and Philpott use to great effect. In this production, the sound of the sentences are laden with a naturalistic casual delivery and so the urgency or sharpness is muted and slowed. This is a play about attack and defense: how we attack ourselves, each other – as people/family/neighbours/community. It is vital that the language follow the theme and the function of using such a style of language. Unfortunately for me it felt like through the style of delivery Helicopter felt more like a reflective dreamscape than a brutal attack.

The story itself seemed overly simplified: the child of a refugee neighbour is run over in their street by a family’s car. What we are immediately confronted with is a vague variation of the noble savage/the outsider/the other -who is victim to the deeply dysfunctional and disconnected white local community. The teenage son self-harms, the father self-medicates, the mother is a compulsive shopper: they all have their vice. And then Thomas – the uncle of the dead child is idealistic, has suffered and overcome, has endured and excelled. The problem is not necessarily for me that these characters are so simple – there is a joy in simplicity – the problem for me is that there is no variation from that single representation. The characters are largely one-level, fairly predictable and unattractive (by which I mean there is nothing that attracts me to want to know more about the characters on a deeper level). I am left watching the inevitable play out, without surprise and not particularly with any sense of compassion. The flaws of the characters so heavily named and explained – (“Are you taking another Xanax?” “Did you cut yourself again?”) that it lead us to judge and not embrace their flaw – for surely if you name it, it is a conscious flaw? If it conscious than surely you are responsible for rectifying it?

There seems loaded within the script – the tragedy of the middle-classes, the double -edged sword of “charity”, the problems of a litigious society especially in the face of admission of guilt/blame, teenage bullying, the cultural clash of refugees.


What I did really enjoy about the play were the segments of surprise – the father’s drug induced hallucinations are an interesting diversion of language and surprise – a talking mount of toys made in China: brilliant!

Regardless of my discomfort in this production – I’m grateful to get a chance to see something that is reaching formally and structurally beyond what so much anglo Australian theatre offers.