Spawned from the observation that often during productions of indigenous work some of the most interesting stories were told in the rehearsal room rather than onstage, 20 Questions is a special event at Belvoir devised by theatre stalwarts Wesley Enoch and Eamon Flack that sees Enoch interviewing a different indigenous performer every Monday (with a few exceptions) from now until mid-August. For opening night, the self-described “big, black and beautiful” Casey Donovan takes the stage and it’s smiles all ’round.
Far from a casual chat, the show is carefully sculpted. With blatant disregard for the show’s title, Enoch in fact asks around 200 questions over the course of the night. Set out in three acts, we begin with basics; name, hometown, whether Donovan prefers strobe lights or mirror balls. Questions are short and sharp and if Donovan struggles for more than a moment to produce an answer, Enoch swiftly moves on. At the end of the act, Donovan performs a song and has the audience in the palm of her hand as her voice fills the theatre.
For act two things slow down. Donovan is given more time for her answers whilst the questions move away from quick thoughts to complicated ideas. How do you feel about white guilt? Have you ever not wanted to be indigenous? There’s a real honesty in Donovan’s answers and she doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions.
After another song and another stunning vocal display, the final third of the show sees Donovan standing in a spotlight whilst a song plays, chosen by her prior to the show for its ability to make her cry. For a work that’s based on a parlour game, there’s real emotion in the finish and with a surprising finale, it’s clear this theatrical experiment can only be a raging success.
4.5 out of 5 stars
20 Questions is showing on Monday nights at Belvoir St Theatre until August 11.