Monday, 5 February 2018

HIR, Feb 4, 2018 ***

By Taylor Mac, by Red Stitch Theatre
At Red Stitch Theatre, until March 4, 2018
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts On Tue Feb 6 or Thu Feb 8, 2018. KH
HIR_Jordan Fraser-Trumble, Belinda McClory, Harvey Kaska Zielinski_c Teresa Noble
The disarray and domestic chaos on stage in HIR, a play by Taylor Mac, is a reflection of the dysfunctional relationships and peculiar behaviour of the family of four.

Playwright, Mac, is a renowned American artist whose performance and stage persona defy definition, and the issue of refusing to be defined in ‘normative’ terms is at the core of HIR.

In a rundown house built on landfill, Paige (Belinda McClory) lives with Arnold (Ben Grant),  her stroke-victim husband, and Max, (Harvey Zaska-Zielinski), her teenage transgender son who was, until recently, her daughter.

When older son, Isaac (Jordan Fraser-Trumble), returns from war service, he upsets Paige’s frenetic, new, domestic ‘order’ that involves drugging and tormenting her formerly violent husband and cultivating new, bizarre activities to support her rather confused transgender son.

The performances are strong in Daniel Clark’s frenzied production, but watching it is a distressing, anxiety-inducing, sometimes enraging experience because of the aggressive, almost demented behaviour of characters who are inherently dislikeable, despite each occasionally garnering our sympathy because of their predicaments.

Each member of this battered family is in transition, but each is experiencing a different type of change; no one understands or accepts the others’ evolving identities and ideologies, and everyone seems totally unaware of his, her or hir (Max’s gender-neutral pronoun) own failings or transgressions.

McClory is compelling as Paige, balancing carefree cavorting, rule-breaking antics and muddled views on gender theory, with frantic, uber-controlling behaviour and her frightful abuse of Arnold.

Grant captures both the childlikeness and latent violence of Arnold, while Fraser-Trumble manifests the troubled psyche of a war veteran in Isaac, and Zaska-Zielinski expresses Max’s gender fluidity.

The most disturbing element in HIR is that the characters exhibit no positive evolution of gender roles, merely replacing one abuser with another. Let’s hope that’s not Taylor Mac’s solution to alter the patriarchal paradigm of straight, white male power.

By Kate Herbert
Hir_Belinda McClory, Ben Grant, Jordan Fraser-Trumble_c Teresa Noble

Hir_ Harvey Kaska Zielinski, Jordan Fraser-Trumble_c Teresa Noble

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