Girl Shut Your Mouth

01 Stephanie Panozzo, Jessica Paterson, Shalom Brune-Franklin, Brittany Morel. Girl Shut Your Mouth. Image by Daniel James Grant I was dubious walking into Theatre Underground. Growing up with a director in the house, my tolerance for over-acting and annoying theatre personas is low. Loaded: A Double Bill of New Plays, however, lingered in my mind days after, and forced me to go through a process of figuring out, which I think all is a prerequisite of all art.

Girl Shut Your Mouth, written by playwright Gita Bezard and directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler, is the first play in the double bill that opens Black Swan State Theatre Company's 2016 season. The stage, strewn with pink clothing, is a teenage girl’s kind of chaos. Grace (Shalom Brune-Franklin) and Mia (Stephanie Panozzo) help their friend Katie (Jessica Patterson) pack her bag, as she talks excitedly about being special enough to leave. She’ll be welcomed with minty drinks and open arms when she arrives, but where is she going, and why is she special?

This is where Gita Bezard is quite brilliant: everything is light, fluffy and familiar, but soon we realise this is a story outside of ourselves. The bubbly schoolgirls are somewhere dangerous, and Katie’s ticket out is a bullet in her neck, funnily enough, and her friends want out too.

07 Jessica Paterson, Shalom Brune-Franklin, Brittany Morel, Stephanie Panozzo (laying). Girl Shut Your Mouth. Image by Daniel James Grant

Darcy (Brittany Morel) is seemingly a voice of reason in many scenes, but by countering the other girl’s choices, brings the audience to a question of rationality­–is it absurd to put yourself in a life-threatening circumstance to escape another? Darcy brings an isolated situation into a global one, and Morel is the perfect performer to coax the audience in reconciling this.

The absurdity of hurting oneself as an escape from a worse-off threat is something we’re unable to grasp in our comfortable chairs, but Girl Shut Your Mouth tries. When the spotlight is on Mia and the stage blacks out, we watch as she’s forced to sell her body in exchange for a gun, as the other girls don the voice of the villain. The traumatic scenes work well juxtaposed against the superfluousness of others, and Fowler balances these perfectly.

Bezard's subtle approach is her greatest asset as a writer - after seeing All That Glitters last year we observed she has a particular way of getting into your head, but never preaching. Girl Shut Your Mouth is no different. It's is all about the unspoken, but doesn’t rely too heavily on the audience reading between the lines.

22 Shalom Brune-Franklin, Brittany Morel, Stephanie Panozzo, Jessica Paterson. Girl Shut Your Mouth. Image by Daniel James Grant

Girl Shut Your Mouth is followed by Tonsils + Tweezers, another black comedy, which deserves its own review, by the way (I got a little carried away with the first one). Taking a painful story, and wrapping it up in numerous levels of dark humour, and I mean, hilarious scenes­ (Megan Wilding and Hoa Xuande blew my mind), the second of the two plays solidified my consensus: Black Swan is harbouring some exceptional talent, and Loaded: A Double Bill of New Plays is a must see, even just to see if you can laugh and cry at exactly the same time.

Loaded: A Double Bill of New Plays is playing at the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of WA until 7 February. Tickets from the Black Swan website.

By Naomi Faye