New Theatre: Horizon will have you talking

Horizon theatre
Image credit: Stephen Henry

Horizon by Maxine Mellor could not have existed more than 10 years ago. Or at least, it could not have existed for me. At that time, I was one of those crappy privileged males.

Absent of thought for what it might be like to walk a mile in a woman’s shoes; I had never considered that being trusted, understood and favoured were implied by my biology. Terms like ‘privilege’ and ‘consent’ were not contemporary watchwords – we barely used them.

These are notions that resonated searingly for me as I left the Brisbane Powerhouse theatre after my ‘Horizon’ experience.

It’s starts out pretty cute. Cole (Sam Foster) and Sky (Ngoc Phan) are on a road trip to visit Cole’s dying father. Evidently, there is some unresolved tension there. But the charismatic couple find ways to charm each other by dipping in and out of ‘blockbuster-film-trailer’ roleplay. They don endearingly bad American accents with their finger-guns ablaze.

But as the hours pass, tensions rise and soon Skyler and Cole are learning things about each other that only a drive to a dying patriarchy’s – sorry – patriarch’s house can teach you.

To get it out of the way, yes, the design is very bloody cool. It’s a rare day you get to see a car rotate on stage (one which Foster and Phan scale like a jungle gym). The AV design was not distracting like I predicted, but instead an incredibly effective asset in creating the illusion of movement. So, let’s just say before we get to the more important nitty-gritty – Horizon is great to look at.

New Conversations

When I say that ‘Horizon’ could not have existed more than 10 years ago, what I mean is that nowadays, conversations about male privilege, consent and gender-bias are not just common place. But imply a rhetoric to which we default when having any political discussion. Reception is reciprocal and this is the space that Horizon’s characters occupy with the audience.

The talons of Mellor’s dialogue shred ‘the conversation’ with new questions and conundrums at every turn. This ever-deepening discussion, while entirely engaging and necessary, had me feeling that Horizon was more a vessel for dialogue than it was a vessel for drama. While moments like Sky’s discovery of a disturbing mixed-tape from Cole’s adolescence are chilling points of action, in the end, I felt that this play’s drama was more academic than action-packed.

It’s hard to tell you that the play feels about a half an hour too long. It’s not because it’s boring or unnecessary. It’s because ‘the conversation’ has been given dramatic priority. That’s not a slight on the conversation – it’s a vital conversation. 

At times I felt like I was in the 5th hour of a road trip. But perhaps that’s the point… and maybe by the time we get to the patriarchy’s house, he’ll be dead.

Closing night

Horizon’s closing night is tonight, but it is my hope that this review still makes an impact. When the text becomes available for purchase, I urge you to get your hands on it. It may not have been my ideal in-theatre experience. But it is undoubtedly a vital and prescient piece of writing; a conversation that you and I ought to be able to reference all the time.

To purchase tickets to Horizon head to the Brisbane Powerhouse website

Keep your eyes on for the release of Horizon by Maxine Mellor.

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