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Credit: James Grant

Black Swan Theatre Company bursts into 2016 with a strong Double Bill of new writing, nurturing emerging artists, and fitting in perfectly with FRINGEWORLD. The Bridging Company¬† is Black Swan‘s most recent initiative that shows the pathway professional artists in WA can take. It consists of an ensemble of seven graduates from WAAPA’s¬† 2015 graduating program. All of the artists get the oppportunity to work in ‘The Lab” bringing life to new plays.

Girl Shut Your Mouth – 4.5 stars

Mean Girls meets Malala, this sharp and crackling script is practically flawless. Everything seems bright and happy in the sugar-pop world of Katie’s bedroom, three girls vacillate between fantasising about moving to a ‘country club’ style new residence, and cattily ostracising another who supposedly wronged them – presumably over a boy or something seemingly innocuous. Everything is so hyper-real and seemingly superficial that is cleverly masks the actual content of the play.

The writing is so clever, it really shows Gita Bezard is a force to be reckoned with. She takes the controversial and uncomfortable subject matter of women in warzones, denied education and oppressive regimes that deny women and teenage girls of their rights. Instead of placing the action in a cliche war-torn, ISIS driven rubble of a foreign country, the action occurs mostly in the teen-driven world of bright clothes, puffy skirts and talks of boys and crushes.

The acting is a touch over the top, and slightly amateurish but this clearly comes from the newness of the actresses. Their youth is intrinsically bound to the script and they certainly warm up as the show goes on. Their light and high-pitched tone is juxtaposed with the serious nature of the content. Bold, fierce and razor sharp, Girl Shut Your Mouth is the show that everyone should see.

Tonsils and Tweezers – 3 stars

So much is going on in Tonsils and Tweezers, it’s difficult to pin down what happens. Tonsils (Lincoln Vickery) spends the entire play in his undershorts and holding a green apple. (Sometimes he eats the apple and has to get a replacement.) Tonsils acts as narrator, telling the story in a non-linear, frantic and frenzied way. He describes his friendship with Tweezers as aligned with the theory of binary stars (quite a poetic way of fusing art and science.)

It is Hoa Xuande as Tweezers, though, who steals the show. His acting is flawless as he mercilessly grills his old school-colleague Max in a way that borderlines crazy but never quite loses it. Tweezers is a cleaner who is followed around by and continually lectures Tonsils, yet he also uses him as a confidante and great friend. He quirkily irons Tonsils out, makes up a story about a gun and expresses his deep emotions as the play progresses.

There is a feeling, however that Tonsils and Tweezers is trying too hard. It is fast paced, non-linear and has surreal moments that nod to a Brechtian influence (cue Megan Wilding as storyteller, giant toothbrush mascot uniform, and the whole story of the gun interlude.) The self-aware reciting of Shakespeare and breaking down of actor’s techniques and directing also seems a little over the top. It is the ‘big twist’ at the end, though that is handled in the most confusing way. It’s too frenzied and makes it difficult to relate to the main characters at the height of their emotional turmoil. It’s a play that is attempting too much and just needs to be pared back.

Tonsils and Tweezers is certainly worth it for the acting (although it would have been great to see more of Wilding) and the emotional journey of the characters. It will definitely leave you asking, what if?

LOADED: A Double Bill of New Plays is playing at the Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia until 7th February 2016.

Get tickets here: http://www.bsstc.com.au/season-2016/loaded/