A superb work of meta theatre about about small-budget, ego-driven Melbourne theatre.
It was surprisingly hard to find out anything about The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’
before I walked into the La Mama courtyard, other than that it was sold out, and that everybody says Zoey Dawson is just the cat’s pyjamas. (I look forward to seeing that last sentence fragment, out of context, on a poster for the next iteration of this show.) There was no hint of what to expect: not even a program on the way in. I’m not actually sure the work is spoilable, but certainly those involved seem to think the best way to present it is with a wall of coy blankness.
Of course, if I were to review the show with the same blankness, that would be deeply tiresome for you, dear reader. So, walking the fine line between spoilers and a review that’s just content-free gushing, let me just say that The Unspoken Word Is ‘Joe’ is about theatre. Specifically, it’s about small-budget, ego-driven Melbourne theatre, in which Zoey Dawson repeatedly kicks the stuffing out of herself for our amusement. And boy, were we amused.
Usually, when I describe something as ‘meta’, it comes with an eye-roll or a faint sigh. Somewhere in the last couple of decades, we got the idea that being meta could stand in for being good, and that being self-referential could stand in for being funny. I am pleased to report that The Unspoken Word Is ‘Joe’ has sandblasted at least one layer of cynicism off my tarnished soul, because this work is meta, self-referential and smashingly enjoyable.
Directed by Declan Green and written by Dawson for MKA Theatre of New Writing, The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’’s secret weapon is Georgina Capper, walking the perfect line between lampoon and glorious accuracy. Her comic timing is so sharp it could cut through a concrete birdbath. The production also relies heavily on the talents of Nikki Shiels, without whose spot-on overacting and knack for re-creating awkward, off-kilter interactions, this work would be nothing.
Since it’s already sold out, I’m sure this review will be a fat lot of good to anyone, but if it comes around again, I wholeheartedly recommend that you call someone who knows someone and see if they can pull some strings to get you some tickets.
Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5
MKA Theatre of New Writing presents
The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’
By Zoey Dawson
Director and Dramaturg: Declan Greene
Set & Costume Design: Eugyeene Teh
Stage Manager & Operator: Belle Beth Cooper
Performed by Georgina Capper, Aarong Orzech, Nikki Shiels and Annie Last
La Mama Theatre, Carlton
4 – 14 October
Melbourne Fringe Festival
26 September – 14 October
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level