This play by genre-smashing spoken word artist Kate Tempest explores friendship and grief for the millennial generation
You could build a whole night around Wasted. Produced by indie theatre outfit The Kings Collective and housed at Marrickville’s Factory Theatre, this isn’t your average theatergoing experience: it’s an experience in temporary community building with art at the core.
The Kings Collective have set a variety of price tiers between $30 and $50 – not for a hierarchy of good seating that favours the wealthy, but to give audiences the opportunity to ‘pay what you can’. The message is clear: art is not exclusively for those who can afford it, and everyone is welcome at Wasted.
And it’s not just a play. Before the curtain there’s a poetry slam (in collaboration with Enough Said and Word Travels). Host Emily Crocker breaks the ice with friendly chatter and warm encouragement, educating the audience on the quirks and rituals of slams so audiences not only are prepared for what’s about to happen, but so they can join in; as the poets worked through their pieces, more and audience members started to click their fingers at the lines that moved them, coming together in traditional slam style. Before the play, there was evocative language, audience laughter, and tears. A bar in the tiny Fusebox theatre opened between slam and show; this is a casual, full-package night
Wasted fits right into this model. Written by Ted Hughes award-winning poet and spoken-word artist Kate Tempest (who performed at Sydney Festival in 2016), the play melds spoken word and rap with plot; in the hands of director Elsie Edgerton-Till, it’s a scrappy, alt-theatre adaptation of a conventional story about dreams drowning in the suburbs.
The play itself is predictable: young people ageing; replacing their young dreams with drinking and drugs and buttoned-up lives; a doomed love affair; the sense of losing the things you believed in or the person you thought you’d be. Three friends are mourning the death of a fourth – a year on, and the grief has shaped their lives and their choices ever since. The story beats are familiar and verge on trite – when you look past the music and spoken word, you’ll realise you’ve heard it a hundred times before – but its presentation is fresh and disarmingly earnest.
The trio of actors – Jack Crumlin, David Harrison and Eliza Scott – performs with that same sincerity, which helps to sell the moments the actors break the fourth wall and address the audience. On Tyler Ray Hawkins’ smartly minimal set with atmospheric, beat-propelled projections (sound and lighting by Tegan Nicholls and Nick Fry), Edgerton-Till keeps the energy of the show up and places clarity front and centre in her direction; the plot is never derailed by the spoken word interludes; the music never overpowers the story. It’s a cohesive and smart production; Edgerton-Till is a director to watch.
As a play in its own right, Wasted isn’t especially ground-breaking. But with ‘pay what you can’ pricing creating fair access, the relaxed alt-music venue setting, the poetry slam and the communal feel of the outdoor bar, it’s an experience all but built for idealistic young people, or anyone who has fallen in love with philosophy or anti-capitalist theory. With a group of friends and comrades, a drink, and a willingness to accept that poetry is cool, because it is, this is a night out that could feel not just special, but a sign that IRL communities aren’t yet dead.