The Day The Sky Turned Black is a taught, well acted, one woman play held in the intimate setting of the Metropolitan Hotel, Grote Street. In an hour long show its star, Ali Kennedy-Scott, explores whether good art can come from horror and brings reality to the events behind the news.
Directed by Adrian Barnes, with original music by Pat Wilson, The Day The Sky Turned Black is set against the backdrop of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. The play tells the stories of five ordinary people living through extraordinary times, all of whom are survivors of Australia’s worst natural disaster. Ali Kennedy-Scott has based her characters on real interviews with bushfire survivors and she flips between them in a blur of multiple personalities.
In the play’s best moments the characters appear real. Watching it you almost feel like you are journalist tasked with interviewing them all.
The play successfully avoids being a ‘full gore’ bushfire recollection, instead focusing on letting her characters explain their emotions in a weaving fashion. This is successful in adding to the feeling of realism and getting an emotional response from the audience. There are several moment where the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up. The play also avoids too many cute ‘fire fighter that feeds a Koala’ moments which adds to the sense of realism.
A de facto narration is provided by recordings from the ABC newsroom in Victoria. This is used well for effect as there is something jarring about hearing professional calm voices as death tolls rise and killer winds strike.
The intimate venue adds to the experience. As a member of the audience you feel up front and centre (the Metropolitan’s theatre space seats about twenty five people). I was unsettled to scratch an itch or fidget with my shoe lest I upset the characters.
Can good art come from horror? Of course it can, suffering is a primary feature of art. This is not the lightest Fringe show playing this season but it is recommended as a dose of raw emotion for a generation of people used to seeing warfare and natural disasters on television. Profits donated to CFS/CFA. See it from March 3rd to 13th.
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Review by James Hook