Are we alone in the universe?

A wall of transparent plastic looms in the horizon transforming the State Theatre into a quarantine zone. The stage is dotted with balloons of black and white of varying sizes.  Circular and suspended in the air like satellite balloons whilst others are scattered on the ground like peculiar objects, rocks from another planet.   A dull blue light reflects off the black balloons forming opaque alien heads with luminescent eyes.

Alienation is fascinating theatre from the Perth Theatre Company drawn from the curious stories of Australians who claim to have been abducted.  Writer Lachlan Philpott has cleverly entwined real life interviews into witty and convincing dialogue.  Directed by Melissa Cantwell, Alienation stars Luke Hewitt, Naomi Hanbury, Robert Jago and Natalie Holwood.  Firstly introducing themselves to the audience as their true selves, then slipping into the guise of an abductee or non-believer.  All four actors gave charismatic performances seamlessly switching between the actor and the character.

Holfold plays affable Katherine an odd girl with frightened eyes. She shares her first encounter at an abductee help group.  She is only a child, money in hand on the way to the shop for paddle-pops.  Something draws her down an overgrown lane into a yard.  She walks towards the beautiful caged peacocks, their tails glimmering like gems.  Her eyes grow wider as she recalls the birds gurgling as a small otherworldly being appears.  The peacocks stir, feathers moving and he is talking to her, his lips don’t move, yet she can hear his voice.  Katherine looks up to the audience with those sad eyes and asks ‘I am nothing special. I am not pretty. Why would they choose me?’.  You soften, your heart goes out and you ask could this be real?

Then there is the story of Will.  An accountant played by Jago, just a normal guy on his way to his niece’s birthday.  It is a long drive to his sister’s house.  Time ticks on and Will doesn’t arrive.  His phone is off and night falls into morning. Will is stunned the last hours a complete blank.  He then exists in a trance like state left wondering ‘where did that time go?’.  Nothing makes sense until he remembers.  Driving down the highway, the music stopping and that bright white light.   Will attends the help group to find answers. 

Katherine befriends Will, easing him out his shell in a heartwarming manner.  Will is unsure and untrusting whilst Katherine is hilariously persistent, almost borderline stalking him.   This refreshing dance of playful cat and timid mouse with a romance bubbling underneath makes Alienation utterly human.

The story of Brian, played by Hewitt, was disturbing yet truly thought provoking.  Brian is a typical bloke with a stereotypical bogan girlfriend played by Hanbury.  They are doing well, working in a remote area making good money.  Brian wakes up, watch missing with his wrist searing in pain.  He is bewildered and in shock and then he remembers.  He shares this horrifying news with his loved one.  She laughs in his face and brushes it off.  You don’t really blame her as you think how you would handle such news?  

A series of haunting events unfold, as Brian starts to go mad, a static sound taunting him.  Hard screeches of metal punctuate scenes as their relationship is torn apart by his obsession with the supernatural. He is petrified, anger fuelled by the planted seed of paranoia. You can imagine how this would drive someone over the edge with Brian literally frothing from the mouth at breaking point.

Alienation is the journey of what happens after the spaceship.   When all you are left with is the truth as you know it, that is, if you want to remember.  Whether you are a believer or a skeptic or just a little unsure this production will get you thinking, ‘are we alone in the universe?’.  A touching and comic performance of how we adapt during life’s most earth shaking moments.

Alienation is showing as part of the Winter Arts Festival at the State Theatre Centre until 13 July 2013.