Girl Shut Your Mouth – Deadset Theatre Company

Girl Shut Your Mouth – Deadset Theatre Company

Once again Deadset has thrown a curve ball directly at its audience. With a title like “Girl Shut Your Mouth” I doubt if anybody in the audience expected a gentle comedy of manners! What we got was more than just an “in your face” piece of theatre, it was a full assault on our very thought processes. This time it is Deadset Co-founder Matilda Butler who directs. She has obviously worked in close collaboration with her cast of four and they performed as a well oiled unit throughout. It was as good a piece of ensemble acting that I have seen for a long time.

Who are these four young women on stage and, indeed, where are they? They appear to share common friendship bonds yet they can be mean to each other too. Katie (Lizzie Zeuner) leads the pack. She already has a life threatening bullet lodged near her spine and she appears to know what, as a collective, they should do in order to break the nexus of their predicament. She also leads the chiding (bullying?) of late arrival Darcy (Jasmyn Setchell). Darcy may well be timid and frightened for we learn she has been disfigured in an acid attack. She and the other two girls Mia (Mia Ellis) and Grace (Ashlynn Bunt) look to the forceful Katie to orchestrate their next move. There is much talk of death and funerals and grief. It appears to be an obsession. They agree that “You should be able to grieve in the way you choose” and “When you grieve nobody blames you”. A rather odd yet telling comment?

The performance is set on a floor decorated with symbols and markings that reminded me of a complex board game. It is on this platform and within the “game” the four characters move, seemingly restrained by a set of rules they can neither comprehend or control. They are like a set of dominoes waiting their turn to fall and are trapped within a timeless quest for their individual survival.

But who or what is the external threat that awaits them outside of their “playing field”? The four of them chant at one point “Who are our enemies”? The enemy is most likely to come from within. Throughout the ages in times of war, superstitious persecution, displacement, hardship, poverty, and within violent relationships it has been, and sadly continues to be, the lot of women the world over to suffer and to die. Our daily press luridly screams the details of the latest domestic violence victim from its front page. And survivors like Katie and Darcy and Mia are left to limp through life with troubling scars both physical and everlastingly emotional.

That was my take on what I was witness to but a reviewer colleague who accompanied me saw it differently. We both agreed the audience would have any number of views on what we all experienced. It was by no means an easy watch but the superb team work displayed by Ashlynn, Mia, Jasmynn and Lizzie completely captured our collective concentration. They found their rhythm immediately the play began and held it to the end. Not a single line was dropped nor a cue missed. Their concentration was excellent and their timing flawless. Characters were fully developed and maintained throughout and, in my opinion, acting honours were shared equally. It was an impressive acting event.

Deadset Theatre continues to be true to its founding philosophy of giving young people the chance to showcase their talents. The company’s body of work is growing apace as is their enviable reputation. Well done to the lot of you!

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This production was reviewed by:

Alan Shepley
Alan Shepley
Whilst at University and Adelaide Teachers College he performed with Adelaide Uni Footlights, Therry and Theatre Guild before being appointed to country teaching positions. Over 35 years he was involved with school and/or community theatre productions in all facets of getting a show on stage at Pt. Augusta, Kadina , Balaklava and Pt. Pirie.

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