You’re Not The Boss Of Me opens with two children playing Bonka in a red cage. Bonka is everything. We don’t know what it is, we don’t know why they are there, but we fear the worst and hope for the best.
Director Adam J A Cass says in his program notes that he’s sucked in by theatre that surprises, stays one step ahead and doesn’t spoon feed. No wonder he jumped at the chance to direct Natasha Jacobs’ script.
You’re Not The Boss Of Me plays with playing and we hope the physical cage is a metaphor. We try to find the truth amongst the tricks, teases, games and dreams, then try to avoid it when we see it. Jacobs excels at creating unease and discomfort by only letting us glimpse the truth as it plays hide and seek in the story and in our understanding. She knows that what we imagine is so much more powerful than what we are told.
Jacobs knows every nuance of her script and her performance as the girl is riveting. This girl doesn’t want to drop her mask of control, not even to her only friend and hope, and it’s a rare performer that let’s the character keep her control, while letting the audience see the horror and fear that created the mask. Sam Hall, as her friend, equals Jacobs’ energy and gently reveals his character’s reality as his innocence slips away and he is forced to take control.
Cass’ direction is paced perfectly. The first act is full of movement, fun and hope that it’s all just a game, while the second act almost stills to a halt, as the hints of truth can no longer be hidden and the tension becomes beautifully uncomfortable. Directing actors to perform as children can be more difficult than directing children. If either performer were allowed to fall into the unforgiveable cliché of a comic child, the impact would be lost. He lets the children play, while bringing an adult understanding that the reasons for their play are complex and hidden.
The design team (Luke Stokes – set, Richard Vabre – lighting, Camilla McKewan – costume and Brooke Taylor – sound) create the unsettling caged world the children play in. The design lets the audience feel slightly confused, but, like the script, is open to many interpretations.
Unfortunately, the season has ended, but this is a work that deserves to be seen again.
This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.