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the horrible truth

adam broinowski: the zombie state


The Zombie State, Melbourne Workers Theatre, Student Union, Union House Theatre, Melbourne University The Zombie State, Melbourne Workers Theatre, Student Union, Union House Theatre, Melbourne University
photo Ponch Hawkes
A PRODUCTION TEAM OF SOUND, VIDEO, LIGHTING AND SET DESIGNERS, PROFESSIONAL ACTORS AND A GAGGLE OF EAGER UNIVERSITY DRAMA STUDENTS WAS GATHERED BY MELBOURNE WORKERS THEATRE AND THE UNION THEATRE FOR SIX WEEKS OF REHEARSAL TO MAKE A SHOW BASED ON THE CURRENT FRINGE FESTIVAL ZOMBIE FAD. IT IS RECOGNIZABLE AS A DEGUSTATION OF AESTHETIC MOTIFS FROM AROUND MELBOURNE’S THEATRE OVER THE PAST FIVE TO TEN YEARS, AND A FUN WAY TO INCORPORATE INEXPERIENCED ACTORS.

We are in a waiting room, the set captures a compressed perspective of a hospital corridor, a red horizontal line leading from us through limbo to the red doors of hell. A mix of zombies (ghoul make-up) and ‘ordinary’ humans (human make-up) wait in a room with piped muzak. The apparent humans are Jeff, a sleeves-up politician running for the ‘dream job’ of Prime Minister, and his all-female advisory team. In one of two perspex boxes set neatly on either side of the stage, the would-be PM rehearses a promotional ad for his 2021 campaign. The hackneyed deal goes something like this: the (zombie) people are to love eating meat, which they buy with money from work. The united (zombie) people are to serve, while the new, innovative ideas inside the heads of the brightest, best, boldest brains are to be given to Jeff, who works to secure Australia's place in a rapidly changing world.

The short man and short skirts of team PM take a vote-canvassing tour of the (zombie) people. We see a young man who can’t afford the insurance have his teeth brutally pulled, his chin caked in blood. A doctor can’t stop his repetitive visions of unstoppable bleeding. A teacher, crazily marking papers, uses the endorphines generated by jogging to inhibit sleep. Two shop-girls go from a pseudoephedrine high to lobotomized low. A vampiric stripper, forces herself endlessly on as a hapless youth breaks down in the corner. A bus driver grimly plays his part in a scam by dumping his abducted passengers at a retail warehouse. A cleaner is invited to rent with a ‘working family’ who, having made necessary adjustments, work holidays and choose one child for university. The (zombie) people are a not-quite-human resource. They are addicted to meat and mesmerized by the flames, which literally light up the walls. "Relieving the worker of their family responsibilities" under a "work is life" mantra' we know this score.

The Zombie State, Melbourne Workers Theatre, Student Union, Union House Theatre, Melbourne University The Zombie State, Melbourne Workers Theatre, Student Union, Union House Theatre, Melbourne University
photo Ponch Hawkes
The tide turns when a seagull, fried by the flame-stacks of a casino, falls from the sky and attacks the PM candidate. The zombie acting intensifies, the make-up leaches and the movie-sound escalates. By the end, the team PM girls are zombies too, while Jeff admits to being already dead and proposes to "tear (zombie) families apart." With nothing to lose at all, it seems the seagull/zombie revolt, a bored and desperate violence against others and themselves, is nigh.

For those whose lives have been stripped of meaning in the de-regulated, privatised terror economy of the present, whose meagre savings are evaporating in the sinking mega-banks, who are simply exhausted by the long hours forced on them in the name of global competition, can it be said that class is artificial?

"Just keep dancing in plastic cool. Now I only have to work", say the zombies, "now I’m free."


The Zombie State, writer Ben Ellis, director Daniel Schlusser, designer Kate Davis, sound Darrin Verhagen, lighting Niklas Pajanti, Danni Pettingil, video Matthew Gingold, co-producers Melbourne Workers Theatre, Student Union, Union House Theatre, Melbourne University, Sept 16-27

RealTime issue #88 Dec-Jan 2008 pg. online

© Adam Broinowski; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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