By George Dixon
The Melbourne Fringe Festival is an excellent opportunity to check out exciting aspects of The Performing Arts. One of this year’s gems is the premiere of Pillow Fight. Written by Laura Lethlean, Pillow Fight received shortlisting recognition from STC’s Patrick White Award (2021) and the Max Afford Playwright Award (2020), which is a good indication of the playwriting quality.
The production collaboration between Laura Lethlean and Katie Cawthorne that is Anchor Theatre Productions works like a “hand-in-a-glove”. Cawthorne’s artistic direction and interpretation of the writers’ intentions brings intelligence and sensitivity to the script.
The subject matter around sexual consent is a strong focal point, with several high-profile cases currently before our courts. Pillow Fight is an open and honest exchange that peel’s back the mindsets, conventional norms, and stereotypes from both sides.
Who has the power, and who actually has the power, the interpretation of simple and innocent signals. The fantasies and justifications of hazy recollections from a boozy night in the harsh reality of the next day. The consequences and justifications that develop through retracing the events of that night. They are all played out through unmasking the masks we all put on.
Theatre is often used to entertain and dramatise complex or topical situations that safely enable open and truthful discussions. Pillow Fight certainly hits the bull’s eye, offering a vehicle that provides a beacon of light to other insights and perspectives that previously may not have been considered.
The minimal staging allows for Pillow Fight to be highly transportable for small or more significant stages. The simplicity of props and lighting assists in maintaining focus on the two performers, who effortlessly and seamlessly rearrange to suit each scene.
Cameron Grant as Rob presents the complexities of being a stereotypical modern male, sometimes naive and other times misinterpreting signs and subtle signals which are not necessarily there. The interaction with Hen is very well directed, with a beautiful balance of eye contact, sincerity, and freshness, making the situation a “first-time” reaction.
As the lead Hen, Monique Warren plays a seemly charismatic personality that openly displays a friendly personality, which becomes misinterpreted. The use of silence and awkward subtle gestures as witnessed between “just friends” indicated a closeness and relaxed attitude between the characters are wonderfully portrayed.
Hen’s transformation through the impact of that night is well portrayed. The tension developed through her discussion brings Rob to his actions implications and possible consequences. The understanding of not recognising the negative signals and the misunderstanding of compliance opens the gateway for later audience discussions.
The complexity of this is unpacked through the realisation of the following day. The frank discussions and re-enactments of past events opens the mindset and exposes the inner thoughts and fears that should be heard to be understood.
For me, the measure of a great play is the question, “would I come back to see this again?” The answer to that is yes.
This play has value and importance. It should not be missed. I trust Pillow Fight will resurface with extended performances.