Throttle raises road cliches to high Art

Throttle at Bleach
Familiar road tropes establish spine-tingling chills when you are directly immersed in the experience

There is nothing like a road trip to highlight personality traits and set the scene for a battle between the small domestic world established in the car interior and the big bad world outside the windows of that private space.

So, a white Volvo and a domestic spat and a potentially loving resolution in a dark and lonely rural setting provides the perfect seed for a road drama.

In a brilliant piece of self reflective immersive theatre, digital art outfit The Farm, invites audiences to attend the drama in their own cars, circled around the paddock with their FM radio and headlights as an integral part of the theatre experience.

The scene is set as soon as you turn up, and the experience builds gradually as you queue in your cars, test the radio connection, are reminded of your relationship with the car and are instructed in the etiquette of this post-modern drive in theatre.

When the play begins, you have actually been transported into the lonely, rural, roadside night where the drama takes place. The couple in the car in front of you reflect the (mostly) couples in the car that form the audience.

That the drama involves a series of familiar, even cliched road centred scenarios only strengthens the trope that you are in the play, that the play is exactly what you expect to see, in the same way that the familiar components of the horror thriller, provide comfort and fear at the same time.

So, the play takes our couple through the dramas of a lone attacker, a pedestrian accident, a gang of motorcycle riders and a zombie apocalypse. As the action expands out from the paddock that is the stage into the circle of cars that is the audience, the suspension of disbelief into which we all surrendered early in the process immerses you thoroughly into the action. I sweated with fear, my skin crawled in anticipation at the same time as I laughed at the neighbouring theatre goers giggling hysterically in their vehicle.

As well as the rich conceptual layering of the play itself, the physical acting borders on the incredible. Actors emulating accident victims float and jerk unrealistically in your headlights, slight young women bundle giant zombies into the Volvo boot, one actors walks another along the doors of the car so they fall in through an open window, this is magic rendered in a paddock with a minimum of sets.

This is fully realised modern theatre in the making. It combines digital technology, immersive experience, physical theatre and layered cultural awareness.

The play is Throttle, the venue is the Mudgeeraba Showgrounds, the production company is The Farm and tickets are available through Bleach, the Gold Coast Arts Festival. The play is sold out, so you will not get the chance to see it this time round but I’m sure you will have that chance in the future. This is too good to disappear into the ether without spawning other appeareances, derivative works or both.

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