When an actor and a singer come together to create a work in the cabaret space, it is a sure sign that they are on a mission to break theatrical rules in order to create something unique and fresh. ON/OFF certainly gives us something new and innovative, but more than that, this is a work that entertains, fascinates, and connects on many levels. It takes its audience on an emotional roller coaster ride, well aware that it is the contrast of funny and sad that makes each reaction more powerful. We laugh and cry, and laugh again. With its unusual structure and excellent performances, the show forces us to let down our guard, and takes control of all our sentiments.
Scott Witt’s direction is superb. He constantly plays with juxtapositions, making use of the wildly different characteristics of the two actors, and the spacial concepts of on stage and off stage, and crafts a work that is as emotionally volatile as it is confident in its structure and plot. The journey is incredibly bumpy, but the destination is crystal clear. The experience of witnessing one actor on stage, and the other off, while listening to a familiar cabaret standard, is a pleasure that has to be seen to be believed.
Marissa Dikkenberg’s depiction of her character’s disintegration is marvelous. Sara is a bland “Stepford housewife” type, who goes through a thorough and clamorous break down, progressing from a chirpy and sober state of delusion into a complete drunken mess. Dikkenberg has a strong singing voice, but uses her skills carefully to maintain the inevitability of her character. Lisa Chappell’s presence in the tiny Bordello Theatre is colossal, and her acting is faultless. Her drama and comedy are both high octane, but the gory authenticity she puts into her work makes every moment convincing. Chappell’s performance is determined to hit her audience like a ton of bricks. It is unabashed, unapologetic theatricality at its most flamboyant and audacious, and completely delicious.
This is alternative art, but formulated with the intention to communicate to wide audiences. It is a story about life’s disappointments, human resilience, and the value of friendship. These themes are universal, and also passionate. The words to one of the show’s songs sum things up best, “you’ve got to laugh a little, cry a little… and when the world is through with us, we’ve got each other’s arms.” Many things happen in On/Off, but what endures is The Glory Of Love.
Lisa Chappell’s show ON/OFF is running at the Bordello Theatre, Kings Cross until December 15.
Suzy Wrong’s review was originally published on her website covering the Sydney theatre scene, www.suzygoessee.com