Written and directed by Jayde Kirchert, Mara KORPER is a thoughtful, experimental, and, importantly, fun dystopian play that couldn’t have opened at a better time.
Premiering at Theatre Works after many years of development, this production from Citizen Theatre has had a lot of time to form into an experience audience members won’t easily forget.
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After our reliance on purely screen-based entertainment in 2020, a night at the theatre which relies on experiential qualities such as this is very welcome.
The world of Mara KORPER takes its inspiration from the best of science-fiction dystopia, planting the audience in a distant future populated only by women who all worship The Mother.
In this society, a woman’s body, known as a KORPER, doesn’t belong to them but to The Mother, and it is a criminal offence to alter the shape of your body in any way.
The story follows the eponymous Mara, played by Emily Carr, who is the model of efficiency in the workforce, but her tireless devotion begins to unravel when she receives an unexplained delivery.
The audience is introduced to this world as literal outsiders, as the seating is placed within see-through boxes that surround the centre of the space.
Audience members feel like fish stuck in their tanks, looking on at this world as both strangers and active participants, as they are often asked to stand for the entering and exiting of high-ranking characters in the play.
This effect works wonderfully to place the audience in the position of voyeurs, which assists greatly in producing empathy with the characters.
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Audience members are also encouraged to peruse the online program, which not only includes information on the production team, but in-depth lore on this world.
On top of this, the usual trappings of science-fiction are executed with a unique lens here. Such as the glitchy, electronic music that accompanies the “hymns” that the ensemble often burst into, further emphasising the ingenuity of this futuristic religion.
The costume design is decidedly uniform but wonderfully sci-fi, as though it were taken straight out of a great Star Trek episode.
Each actor brings an engaging immediacy to their roles, giving the sense that although they may be all indoctrinated in the same way, they are by no means the same person.
Kayla Hamill delivers an over-the-top poshness, eliciting a smile with her caricatured formality, while Jordan Barr’s dry portrayal of Assistant Bray reminds you of that tired co-worker who really doesn’t want to be there.
The fact that these very human character types are still present in such a distant future scenario is comforting and allows the audience to connect with this disconnected world.
Seeing Mara KORPER isn’t like most nights at the theatre, it will transport you to a distant sci-fi world that is too close for comfort.
Mara KORPER goes down at St Kilda’s Theatre Works until Saturday May 22. Grab tickets here.