Viral: Are you the cure? A show to see
7 September 2018
‘Viral: Are you the cure?’ Ilbijerri Theatre’s latest production, which debuted this week at Site Works in Brunswick, is a clever, insightful synthesis of multiple themes: health, addiction, family, Indigenous dispossession and hep C, brought together in a fluid performance that is both very funny and moving.
It is a highly recommended production for anyone with an interest in Indigenous culture, liver health and the stigma and challenges around viral hepatitis.
The story revolves around three characters, Ally, Merv and Doc, through the lens of a pushy TV crew who follow their daily battles in a mindless and cynical attempt to create a reality-show type news report on their lives. All three characters live with hepatitis C, and the TV ‘reporter’ says he wants to document their journey towards treatment and cure, but his motives are revealed as a blatant exercise in exploiting Indigenous people living in vulnerable situations.
The story cleverly weaves the past, present and future lives of the characters, allowing us to view them from multiple angles; we see Ally when she is a little girl being abandoned by her mother, then raising a child of her own. Merv is older, trying to do the best for his family, stuggling on the booze and developing liver disease. Doc is in prison; we find why he is there and the choices he makes to change his and others lives.
All three characters share a connection -not just through hep C- but also a secret that helps structure the plot and gives added shape and meaning to a production which already touches on fake news, exploitation, drug addiction and stigma.
Ally, Doc and Merv, and all the many other characters are played by the wonderful Laila Thaker, Jesse Butler and Blayne Welsh. Their passion and commitment to this fresh and original work, written by Maryanne Sam is obvious. Director Kamarra Bell-Wykes –a person with lived experience of hep c- has done a brilliant job, with a show that captivates the audience for the entire hour of performance. The perfectly timed music score and soundscape deserve a special mention as does the austere but perfect set design.
“Hepatitis Victoria has collaborated with Ilbijerri for the six years I have been in this role, and it has been a wonderful and inspiring association,” said Melanie Eagle CEO Hepatitis Victoria.
“Just as we have assisted with some of the content specific knowledge, we have much to learn from your innovative ways to reaching out and tailoring information,” she said.