Wayne Tunks' Bitch

Tony Ling
12th Jun 2017

There’s a lot to love about Wayne Tunks’ newest play, the  courageously named Bitch. It seeks to explore many questionable aspects found in our contemporary society that I’m sure everyone can relate to. With the ambitious slew of examining topics like gender politics and family trauma, the play is by no means pretentious in its execution. What you get is a down-to-earth, accessible and downright hilarious piece of theatre.

For a play that is named Bitch, comedy thankfully finds a great home here. You can hear it in the comical and sassy exchanges shared between everybody in the family as well as the two outsiders, resulting in fantastically blended chemistry. In fact, one has to commend Tunks as well as the co-director Jessica Fallico, for how well written every character is within the plot and how no character feels like a redundant pushover in a play that has a fair share of strong characters.

Everyone has an incredibly hilarious comic side where it hits laughs just as well as accomplishing a no-frills characterisation that isn’t too rambunctious and slapstick. The cast do perform a certain kind of physical comedy with their body language. With patient rhythms of silence between punchlines, the animation of the actor's physical presences gave great direction to the flow of the scenes especially when they are the most climatic. 

There is also an intelligent side to the humour as well; the play's humour reflects on many complexes, nuanced issues from the media to gender roles. The laughter that you express from the character’s lines satires many topics that are close to our hearts while poking fun at the insecurities of our beloved family. It’s profoundly intimate and personal which makes the writing all the more powerful especially in this family-centered drama.

There is serious drama to be had when the push comes to shove. The trials and tribulations our characters face are told with brutal honesty and wholeheartedness. In contrast to all the laughs, when the complications occur, a great command of the room is shared between the cast through those little microcosms of expression in the performance. This makes some key moments filled with solemn and subtle solidarity that reflect great acting. In fact, confidence and well-directed performances were had across the board with a very fun and diverse cast of varying age and demographics.

For a play that had a lot going for it, there were a few slight shortcomings to nitpick in this theatre aesthetic. The cast and the overall show seemed to favour only one side of this stair-like seat formation leaving 50% of the audience with more of the actor’s backs, less facial expressions and the potential loss of the overall centricity of the play’s theatre dynamic. Perhaps a slightly more proactive role done by the two stagehands could remedy this between scenes.

An interesting stylistic element was the use of excerpts from various songs playing in the dark interludes between scenes. They all feature the word “bitch’ in their lyrics for reasons that I’m sure you may figure out by this point. However, there are some odd music choices of the humorous variety that plays right after some seriously solemn and thoughtful scenes. This tonal shift was a bit disorienting making you feel slightly robbed of having some breathing room to reflect and process some of the drama powerhouses that just unfolded.

Tunks’ writing is effortless yet sublimely simple in its execution. What results is a play that hits all the right notes in many remarkable aspects from political satire to family values. Alongside the amazing directing from Fallico that yielded fantastic performance out of an incredibly skilful set of actors, Bitch is an intelligently provocative play that many can enjoy.

Bitch is playing at Marrickville's Depot Theatre until Saturday June 16th. Production photos by Robert Miniter.

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