Polite voyeurism and a tension soaked narrative: small metal objects is heading to Fed Square

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Polite voyeurism and a tension soaked narrative: small metal objects is heading to Fed Square

small metal objects
words by sidonie bird de la coeur

An inventive and unique piece of theatre, small metal objects invites its audience to witness a personal drama played out against the backdrop of our city.

Challenging the audience’s assumptions of what it means to live with disability, small metal objects is a unique play that unravels amidst the hustle and bustle of urban foot traffic, heading to Melbourne’s Federation Square from May 3 to 7. 

Check out Melbourne’s latest stage shows and theatrical events here.

“SMO draws on this polite voyeurism and creates a rich drama in a constant sway of the surrounding environment,” says director Bruce Gladwin. “Anything can happen in the public arena, the sense of possibility charges the story.”

Each audience member watches from a raised bank with individual sets of headphones, allowing them to be wired into the intensely personal drama. As the story unfolds, the audience is drawn into the world of two men, Gary and Steve, who are normally unnoticed but tonight, they play a crucial role in the plans of two ambitious executives. 

small metal objects explores how respect is often withheld from those who are deemed ‘unproductive’ by society, such as the disabled or unemployed.

“This is my favourite character to play,” says performer Simon Laherty, who hasn’t missed a performance since it premiered in 2005, “it’s just me and Jim and Gen and Brian and the crowd and the audience, and we’re asking ‘what is more valuable than money’?

“I performed this at Flinders Street in 2005, so it’s similiar. It was good there,” Laherty continues. “It is always in the public, one time in Philadelphia, I got cuddled by one of the general public during a curtain call. It was awkward.

“I just roll with it, I just roll with whatever comes up.”

“The original concept was to present a theatrical work in a high pedestrian location, to use the passing public as unknowing extras in a tension soaked narrative,” continues Gladwin. “There is a pleasure, perhaps even a theatre like experience, overhearing private conversations of strangers, be it on public transport or elsewhere.”

Devised by Back to Back Theatre, winners of the highly acclaimed 2022 International Ibsen Award, small metal objects was the recipient of the 2008 Bessie Award and has been selected for the VCE playlist drama 2023.

“Since the 1980’s, way before my tenure, Back to Back Theatre capitalised on the incredible artistic talent that has existed within our community and in doing so brought new and emerging political and cultural voices to the forefront of public discourse,” says Gladwin.

“Most of the creators are untrained, some refer to themselves as intellectually disabled, some neurodiverse, others as simply artists … performance, like democracy allows people to be seen and heard; to have a voice.”

A play that cleverly uses the urban landscape to tell a deeply personal story, small metal objects will stay with you long after the proverbial curtain call.

Small Metal Objects takes place from May 3 to 7 at Fed Square. Find out more information by heading here.

This article was made in partnership with Back to Back Theatre.