February 18, 2021

Fringe review: DIRT

Adelaide Fringe
Murray Bramwell

An Australian journalist is in Moscow to secretly investigate evidence of LGBTIQ persecution. He meets a Russian tourist guide who can help but he has his own agenda. Angus Cameron’s wryly engaging thriller takes us through a labyrinth of misrepresentation.

****1/2 Four and a Half Stars

DIRT is an intriguing play which combines serious human rights themes with an almost mischievous sense of shape-shifting plot surprise – making it all the more appealing.

An earnest young Australian (later we discover his name is Colin) is hanging back after a Moscow tour to talk with the guide. The sardonic young Russian (whose name we never quite verify) banters with him, teasing him about his girlfriend, defending Russian politics and making barbed remarks about Australian immigration detention failures. It is an edgy exchange but flirtatious as well; a dangerous dance in a city where being queer is a risk to one’s safety.

They venture out together. To the Russian’s apartment for vodkas and then clubbing on party drugs. Colin is wanting the Russian to speak on camera about LGBTIQ persecution in Russia and Chechnya. They disclose a little about their lives. Growing up gay in Tasmania for instance, and the Russian reluctantly talks about his sister, a lesbian who was betrayed by his uncle and is now missing.

Things shift when Colin, loaded on GHB, passes out and revives to find himself tied up and interrogated by the Russian, calling himself Nicolai, and demanding information about his film crew associates.

Tautly directed by Bronwen Coleman, with buzzy lighting from Matt Ralph and roiling dance beats courtesy of DJ MzRizk, DIRT is an engaging mix of ethical debate and espionage mystery. It questions the right of outsiders to expect citizens to endanger their lives speaking out on issues. It also considers the depths of nationalistic feeling even in corrupt regimes. But in Angus Cameron’s accomplished text these threads of argument belong in the larger context of a gay love story.

The performances are excellent. Patrick Livesey’s Russian is an astute mix of swagger and introspection and his accent has no trace of parody or cliché. As the persistent but unworldly Colin, Wil King is a convincing foil to Livesey – and both have Angus Cameron’s effortless dialogue and characterisation to support and propel them.

Here again, so early into the 2021 Fringe, is a premiere local play of real merit. Patrick Livesey has noted that there aren’t many texts available for young queer actors. What a terrific idea to go out and make a new one for themselves.

DIRT is playing at Holden Street Theatres until March 21.

InReview published 18 February, 2021.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment