Deadset Theatre Company
The Breakout at The Mill
Until 11 Jan 2020

Review by Anthony Vawser

This latest production from Deadset Theatre Company arose from writer/performer Zoe Muller’s interest in staging a tale of drug abuse – specifically the modern phenomenon of crystal meth – exerting its grip on multiple young men (and in the process, traumatising the women who love them) in an isolated rural town, far from the social life and general optimism provided/symbolised by ‘the big city’.

“Rattling the Keys” demands that we ask tough questions of ourselves and those around us: Why do drugs manage to take over the minds and bodies belonging to some of our most promising youths? What part can we all play in attempting to minimise this scourge?

The manner in which Muller’s script has been brought to life for Adelaide audiences deserves mention and consideration. “Rattling the Keys” is an ‘in-the-round’ presentation, described in programme notes as an immersive, ‘fly-on-the-wall’ theatre experience; it also credits ‘cast collaboration’ in lieu of an official director. While doubtless a noble attempt to democratise a process that can normally range from hierarchical-to-dictatorial in nature, this decision probably accounts for the less-effective elements of staging to be found here.

Though we in the audience are allowed the opportunity in this production, scene-by-scene, to observe characters who are not currently driving the drama, simultaneously with others engaged in crucial conversation and exposition, this technique of openness tends to draw focus unhelpfully away from the substance of the script. Fortunately, our interest in these people (and whatever their ultimate destiny may be) is maintained throughout - partly by way of intriguingly abrupt scene changes accompanied by dynamic shifts in music and lighting.

Ultimately, Muller has done a service to her subject matter by leading toward a conclusion that is open, realistic, and hopeful, all at once. Every one of the performers – including Matilda Butler, Dylan Miller, Albert Ngo, and Isaac Troisi – show themselves capable, in the closing minutes, of reaching the level of commitment and intelligence that a script like “Rattling the Keys” requires.

It is gratifying and encouraging to witness a collection of young, independent theatre practitioners ambitiously and sincerely applying themselves to exploration of important themes, in an attempt to generate awareness and discussion around a subject that many would rather not be confronted with. This reviewer wishes Deadset every success in reaching those who most urgently need what “Rattling the Keys” has to offer.