Occasionally, 60 minutes can change your life, and for me, Patrick Livesey’s production of Dirt is an example of how fine theatre can showcase and educate about human rights issues in a subtle, compelling way.
A world premiere, Dirt is set over two nights in Moscow. Its purpose is to highlight LGBT issues in Russia, and to that end, $1 from every ticket sold will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network, an organisation promoting equal rights and respect for human dignity throughout Russia. Having said that, Dirt does not posture or lecture. The real issue unfolds as a somewhat naïve Australian inveigles his way into the home of a dismissive, barely interested Russian tour guide. Or is he a tour guide, and why is the Australian really there?
Livesey, as the Russian, is pushy, charismatic and almost balletic in stalking and maneuvering around Wil King, who just happens to be his real life partner, and their total trust shows. King and Livesay, both experienced performers, have been so tightly directed by Bronwen Coleman, that a number of times, they move as one. For me, a high spot is a choreographed sequence that made graphic sex unnecessary. It is beautiful.
The staging is simple, the furniture is sparse and utilitarian, and every single move is planned, incredibly, including scene changes in dim light. Every centimetre of stage, each piece of furniture and stage dressing, is purposefully used; every gesture and pause has meaning. Lighting and sound both are cleverly and meaningfully executed, and are key elements in the production.
The story, written by Angus Cameron, is a masterful piece of writing. Just when I thought I had the twists and turns ironed out, I was wrong. And I still do not know for sure, so I may just have to see it again. This show is predicated on LGBT issues, but in truth, it is a powerfully acted thriller. For more conservative theatre goers, yes, drug taking features, and the most controversial issue may be about the inclusion of herbal cigarettes.
Dirt is seductive, enlightening and challenging. Most significantly it is a masterclass in capturing all of the elements of highly professional, relevant theatre. COVID robs us of full audiences, and for Dirt, this is a travesty, because as many people as possible should enjoy this beautiful piece of theatre.