Anaconda opens with a bang, or several actually, as the character of Phil Walker (Simon Lyndon) physically breaks his way through the set with an act of violence that becomes the catalyst that changes the other characters’ lives.
Sydney barrister Matty lives an outwardly successful life with his wife Bivva in the city where their main concern is whether to sell their investment property on South Dowling Street. Then one night a brutal murder dredges up a tragic event from Matty’s past that he’s tried to suppress and this is when things get real.
Anaconda uses the Trinity Grammar sex abuse scandal as a contextual springboard, but its main concern is the aftermath – who do the people involved become? What kind of shadow does that experience cast over their lives? And, perhaps most significantly, how does silence contribute to the cycle of abuse?
Writer/Director Sarah Doyle is matter-of-fact in both her language and the staging. The symbolism behind the large-scale triangles that form the bones of the set is left to the audience to determine their own meaning, and Max Sharam’s sound design is subtle yet effective. Doyle doesn’t shy away from challenging questions. In one scene Walker asks Matty “What did I do to make them choose me?” It’s an anguished question, and one that Matty, and by virtue the audience, doesn’t have a simple answer for.
Lyndon is particularly funny and heartbreaking as Walker, the victim who’s become a perpetrator. Leeana Walsman keeps Bivva from veering into caricature, exposing her disbelief as she tries to understand where Matty, and by proxy herself, fit in to this past that has become their present.
Anaconda is a lean, thoughtful exploration of guilt and the aftermath of a tragedy that no-one will acknowledge out loud. It is at times difficult to watch, but manages to balance humour with tough questions. And in its aim to create a dialogue about abuse and the silence that allows it to breed, it succeeds.
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BY NATALIE AMAT