The Fremantle Arts Centre is a building with such a rich history. It has been a prison, an asylum, and a women’s home amongst others. Anyone growing up in Fremantle is aware of this history, telling and hearing ghost stories about it throughout childhood, which makes it a wonderful venue for a show like S-27.
S-27 is a grim play inspired by the history of the S-21 prison in Cambodia under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Outside of that context, it serves as a harsh reflection of the human experience in times of extreme hardship and the desperate things people will do to survive.
May (Gabriella Munro) is a photographer for The Organisation and spends her days taking the final portraits of prisoners and traitors brought to her room. She is, presumably, the last face any of them see before being dragged away to whatever fate awaits them. May is forced to confront her past and her actions when a lost love arrives in front of her camera. Gabriella Munro and Samuel Ireland do wonderful work humanising characters that could very easily be seen as the “bad guys.”
The real strength of this piece comes from the commitment of the ensemble under Teresa Izzard and Lauren Beetons’ direction. Some of the best moments were the ones with no dialogue at all, or at least none that was scripted. From the moment they entered the courtyard to lead us into the performance space, they were dedicated to their roles. They were guards working for The Organisation and we were there to be processed. We were led, two by two, down corridors and up staircases. We heard fragments of interrogations going on behind closed doors. Someone was accused of being a traitor and dragged off in front of us. It was violent and confronting. Even though I knew I was completely safe, I was still just a little bit scared. Was I alone?
Feet First Collective have produced a wonderful work that uses every part of the space it is performed in. Well worth seeing before the season ends on July 21.