29 July 2016

Review: Conviction

The Zoey Louise Moonbeam Dawson Shakespeare Company
Darebin Arts Speakeasy
24 July 2016
Northcote Town Hall
to 6 August

Ruby Hughes, Caroline Lee, Troy Reid. Conviction. Photo by Pia Johnson

There's a point in self indulgence that's so personal that is becomes universal.

Writer (often director) Zoey Dawson and director (often writer) Declan Greene (The Unspoken Word is "Joe"are back together for Conviction.

Dawson said in her writer's notes:

"When I went to VCA to do my Masters, I was genuinely ready to embrace the real play and stop writing plays about myself. Partly out of concern for my financial future, partly because I thought I was doing theatre "wrong". But mainly because every time I wrote a play about myself, it really seemed to piss people off."

Fortunately, she didn't listen to herself. And has hopefully stopped listening to the pissed-off voices because there are a lot of voices who want to hear her voice – even when it's raw and indulgent, and especially when she's mouthy about women being pushed into the background.

Ruby Hughes. Conviction. Photo by Pia Johnson

Dawson's work is personal and it's the connection to the writer that's the pumping heart of her work. I remember seeing I know there's a lot of noise outside but you have to close your eyes in 2011 with another no-where-near-20-something friend, and we spent the rest of the night talking about how much the show made us remember being in our 20s and having a lot of sex.

Conviction was mostly funded by a Pozible campaign with donations – mostly reflections of how much theatre makers earn – from some of those not-pissed-off voices.

Funded by Melbourne's indie theatre community, Conviction's meta is meta.

Which means...

If you know what it means, I don't need to explain it. If you don't know what it means, it doesn't matter; it's still hilarious – except when it's confronting or scary. If you miss the theatre in-jokes or dark feminist satire, there are plenty of back-up laughs.

In an attempt to not write about herself, Dawson writes an Aussie settler drama-mystery with Caroline Lee, Dushan Phillips and Troy Reid and Ruby Hughes, who's a young woman who thinks she can write a story about herself as a young woman.

It doesn't work: the not writing about herself or the settler drama-mystery. Neither does the contemporary drama or the dystopian future horror. Is there any time when young women write about themselves?

Conviction. Photo by Pia Johnson

As genres smash into each other like some fringe theatre nightmare – made more real by the design by Romanie Harper (design) and Amelia Lever-Davidson (lighting) that reveals its own jokes and surprises – , we get closer to Dawson. Or maybe to Lee, Hughes, Phillips and Reid. We know she's over being expected to write "real" theatre, and also that she has a Gorman top that she never wears and that she once only slept with men with girlfriends.

And as it spirals into being more about Dawson, Conviction gets closer to its audience. Somewhere in her confessions there must be something everyone has done or felt, even if it's just having an endless inner-voice that we wish would shut up.

Greene's direction lets the inner voices run wild, until he yanks them back. The tone-perfect control in the chaos shapes the work into something that reflects the community and city that it made in and promises to reach beyond.

Sounds like real theatre.

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