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Jarrod Duffy Is Not Dead, Applespiel, Metro Arts Jarrod Duffy Is Not Dead, Applespiel, Metro Arts
photo courtesy the artists

The delectable Applespiel have finally made it to Brisbane to do... a podcast. The contemporary performance ensemble that brought the world Applespiel’s Morning Breakfast Commercial Radio Show (2010) and Applespiel Make a Band and take on the Recording Industry (2012; read the RealTime review) was undertaking yet another metamorphosis. Exploring the mythos of their own beginning, they attempt to establish the true story behind the disappearance of the elusive ninth founding member of their ensemble—Jarrod Duffy. The work is aptly titled Jarrod Duffy Is Not Dead and has been supported by the Merrigong Theatre, an Albury Hothouse residency, Vitalstatistix’ ultra-hip Adhocracy festival and is now presented by Brisbane stalwart, Metro Arts.

Like a David Lynch film, the veracity even of the central premise of the work doesn’t bear scrutiny. Was Jarrod Duffy real? Does it matter? If so, should the collective Applespiel exploit his potential vulnerability? After all, he allegedly disappeared just before a big show, ostensibly to return to the small country town he swore he would never again endure. And his fellow artists track him down to make a show about him.

The pros and cons of this invasion and the framing of this deliciously voyeuristic conundrum are explored with theatrical precision par excellence through the first half of the work with its podcast form. Five of the ensemble sit behind a long desk cluttered with laptops and microphones. Tight localised sound and lighting mirror subtle performances and underpin a clever and fast-paced script that exploits all of the hallmarks of the podcast format. The ensemble is at turns alluring, serious, self-blaming and contemplative. The frisson builds as the audience pieces together a detailed picture of Jarrod’s struggles and the potential secret relationships and rifts that exist beneath the surface.

At some point, almost unexpectedly, the work shifts form. In hindsight, this is linked to the arrival of the real Jarrod Duffy in the story when we see photos and hear a pre-recorded Skype call between him and the ensemble. But it seems to happen abruptly as ensemble members argue and disband—eventually pulling a white screen down over the stage while they dismantle the podcast set-up.

Once we've been entertained by a fake anecdote from one of the ensemble, the screen disappears revealing a stage full of cardboard cut-outs of Jarrod Duffy. Ensemble members wander off and on stage, donning Jarrod masks while swapping his characteristic flannel shirt. Accusations are flung and meditations on class, masculinity and identity abound. "I don’t want to live in a country town," the ensemble chants. Shifting uneasily between performance-making tropes and parody, there is a sense that the work is itself in search of resolution. However, with true Applespiel chutzpah, the climax is rapturous. Clustered around a demented and deconstructed Jarrod Duffy clone, the ensemble sings “You'll Never Walk Alone.” Looking longingly to the door on the final note, they await Duffy's return.

Jarrod Duffy Is Not Dead, Applespiel, Metro Arts Jarrod Duffy Is Not Dead, Applespiel, Metro Arts
photo courtesy the artists

Applespiel & Metro Arts, Jarrod Duffy Is Not Dead, devisor-performers Nathan Harrison, Nikki Kennedy, Emma McManus, Rachel Roberts/Troy Reid, Mark Rogers, lighting design Emma Lockhart-Wilson, original sound composition Tom Hogan; Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts, Brisbane, 20-29 April

RealTime issue #138 April-May 2017 pg.

© Kathryn Kelly; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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