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Review: Bare Witness on ABC Arts

This review of Bare Witness was written by Prue Bentley for ABC arts. See it in its original context here.

Mari Lourey’s newest play explores the life of the self appointed “eyes and ears” of the world, the photojournalist, writes Prue Bentley.

You could argue that the media is in an ugly place at the moment. Opinion journalism has ascended under the auspices of the 24 hour news cycle. Fact-averse, deadline-hungry news agencies are increasingly enslaved to the easy headline.

So, while words can be moulded to an agenda, there’s still a perception of purity in the undoctored, still image.

Mari Lourey‘s newest play Bare Witness tours the life of the self appointed “eyes and ears” of the world, the photojournalist; curious, disconnected individuals who go from conflict to conflict, seeking truth, justice and the next front page.

Through the professional rise of rookie photographer Dani Hall and a hodge-podge group of international photojournalists, we are lead into warzones both real and imagined.

The first thing you notice is the energy.

And to begin with it doesn’t entirely translate. The fragmented sentences, images and frantic running and falling about the stage feels more like a conceptual art piece choreographed by Mr G from Summer Heights High than a thought-provoking piece of contemporary theatre.

Gradually, though, the narrative takes hold and the show finds its stride.

We breach the inaccessible. It’s a world where the moral compass rarely points north, and re-staging a dead body for that “perfect” shot is vindicated by a Western accolade.

The risk of venerating these folks would be all too easy, but Bare Witness just manages a last-minute sidestep. There is no glorification here. Good intentions abound but they are clouded by professional advancement and emotional response. Danger is the ultimate drug and the wolf is always at the door.

Bare Witness is a strikingly original work. Multimedia on stage is nothing new, nor is live sound design, but when it comes to unifying these elements, director Nadja Kostich has delivered the genuine article.

In particular Jethro Woodward‘s explosive sound design rumbles away with dark persistence. It’s more intense than a film score, dirtier than just live FX.

This is serious theatre with unrelenting fervour. You don’t see this kind of passion for a project often – it’s unwavering and powerful.

The cast bring strong performances across the board with an unselfconscious and evocative physicality.

At a time when the Prime Minister herself is asking for the return to “facts on the front page”, this is a work that exposes the myth of objective journalism.

Sometimes the facts simply don’t speak for themselves.

Bare Witness is on at fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne until 26 September.

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