To Shapelle and Back is a kaleidoscope lens reconstruction of the Australian obsession with a young woman who spent nearly 10 years in prison in Bali.
Alex Hines won a pile of awards at the 2021 Melbourne Fringe for her magnificently frenetic online show Juniper Wilde: Wilde Night In. Her work is a surreal, astute and dark exploration of being in the generation who grew up in a world where being online and wearing glitter became everything.
This story beings in 2005, the year after Shapelle Corby was arrested with 4.2 kg of cannabis in her boogie board bag. Hines wasn’t having a good time in high school when she saw a woman on TV who looked almost like her twin. This woman was also suffering and in the media a lot.
In 2005, social media and smartphones were the future and we sucked up lies, gossip and speculation from tabloids, magazines and night-time current affair shows. There were so many stories about Corby, and along with the abundance of theories, investigations, interviews and sneaky photos, there were jokes. So many jokes about her upbringing, intelligence, looks, family, past, name and gender. The laughs were easy and even came from those who supported her.
Hines has distilled the media and her personal obsession into a story about her and Shapelle being cursed double spirits who must never meet. It helps to know Corby’s story, but if, like me, you didn’t know she was recently on reality TV shows Dancing With The Stars and SAS Australia, Hines gives enough background and context to catch up and understand the references.
It’s not a narrative or a confessional but something like a psychedelic nostalgic trip into her and Shapelle’s subconsciouses, which visit an RSL floor show, prison, YouTube, high school, Instagram chats and a spiritual beyond, all with a millennial pop-culture soundtrack.
It’s confusing at times but always fascinating as it takes the exploitation and tabloid story and sees it with a mix of compassion and obsession that focuses on mental health and trauma. There are still lots of laughs, but they come from release and recognition rather than from the dismissal of a young woman’s suffering.