Darcie Irwin-Simpson plays an obsessed schoolgirl in Emily Sheehan's EATING SUNSHINE. Pic Gez Xavier Mansfield
Darcie Irwin-Simpson plays an obsessed schoolgirl in Emily Sheehan’s EATING SUNSHINE.
Pic Gez Xavier Mansfield

ATYP (Australian Theatre For Young People) deserves praise and recognition for their ongoing support for our young writers and actors, giving them an annual showcase called “The Voices Project”, which was successfully launched in 2011.

Hundreds of young writers, aged between 18 and 26 submit their work.  Of these, 18 are chosen for a workshop at the Fresh Ink Writers’ Retreat at Bundanon.  Twelve of these monologues have been published by Currency Press and ten of these are performed at ATYP’s Studio Theatre Under the Wharf.

This year’s theme for the seven-minute monologues is food, aptly named BITE ME.  Accomplished director, Anthony Skuse, has given inspiration and life to these ten pieces, which blend into each other effortlessly, allowing the audience to save their applause until the end.  The occasional transition has the actors using their gymnastic skills for a bit too long, unrelated to the texts.  However, the use of the only real prop on stage, a table, is very effectively used – under it, on top of it, choreographed cleverly by Adele Jeffreys, movement coach.

Director, Skuse, says upon first hearing the 18 monologues at Bundanon, “I was surprised by the diversity of responses to the overarching theme of food.  The preparing and eating of food, as well as the act itself, becomes the metaphor for belonging and loss, for love and sadness”.

There is a lot of talent in this show, both the writers and the actors.  Electric guitars are played by a few actors, the chords and notes cleverly selected so as not to dominate.  The effect is quite haunting.  They also sing subtly and beautifully behind each other’s monologues.

One of the highlights of the evening was “Facon”, written by Felicity Pickering as a kind of humorous rap music/slam poetry piece.  Backed by two electric guitars, talented singer/actor Kate Williams takes the microphone and wows us with her ‘tried to be a vegan for my boyfriend, caught out when he visits my meat-loving family on my birthday’.

Another funny monologue is “Food Baby”, by Kyle Walmsley,  performed with great vigour by Julia Rorke.  With crazy references to KFC, acne and celiac, she plays out the food/love analogy on her baffled boyfriend.

There are many touching and sad pieces as well.  In Sophie Hardcastle’s “Sweet and Sour”, actor Sam Marques touches the audience with his vivid imagery of his mentally disturbed mother returning for a family dinner, her ‘smile sweet and sour’.

“George”, a very dark piece by Keir Wilkins, is performed passionately by Paul Musumeci, in a dire situation about his beloved dog in a starving family.

“Eating Sunshine” by Emily Sheehan about an obsessed schoolgirl, played by Darcie Irwin-Simpson, is full of mystery.

“Pip, Nat, Georgie” by Jory Anast is very thoughtfully played by Airlie Dodds and full of pathos.

Although very abstract in its poetic, imperative form, actor Joel Jackson does a wonderful and vibrant performance of Jake Brain’s “Tell Me”.

“Sweet In The Savoury”, by Tasnim Hossain, is a well written piece about a Bangladeshi girl on a quest to cook the perfect multicultural meal, played by Angelica Madani, who, despite her vocal limitations, has an appealing warmth.

The finale “Dig In, Dean” is performed by all nine actors, and is a hilarious assault on Dean, who eats too slowly.

BITE ME is invigorating and entertaining, certainly worth supporting.  It plays at ATYP, The Wharf, Pier 4/5 at Walsh Bay, from Wednesday to Sunday, the 5th to 22nd February.