Writer: Taylor Mac
Director: Anthea Williams
Dystopian past, present and (for some) future are delivered at fever pitch in Taylor Mac’s black comedy HIR.
Young veteran Isaac (Michael Whalley) is discharged from the duty of scraping together the remains of his military peers and sending them home to their families. He has gained an methylamphetamine-like drug habit and it is obvious he is suffering from PTSD.
Our war veteran walks in on a household that is like B-Grade horror fest (brilliant work by Set and Costume Designer Michael Hankin). Isaac’s once brutal father (Greg Stone) is whining on the lounge in a pink frock, wig and clown face paint. The home is strewn with clothes and rubbish; his mother (Helen Thomson) is humiliating his post-stroke father emotionally as well as through attire; and Max (Kurt Pimblett), his little sister who he learns is being home-schooled, has acquired the start of a beard and an enlarged vagina by taking the testosterone Max (‘hir’) has sourced through the web. The set almost induces nausea it is so chaotically dysfunctional, emotionally damaged and fanatically pitched.
Next we learn that pre-stroke, father used to abuse is wife and family to the point of hospitalisation. This was the home from which Isaac left. It was economically challenged, brutal, saw a lot of television and was extremely tidy. Isaac tries frantically to recapture a semblance of this while Mother is insistent that she is creating the future for them, she and ‘hir’/Max throwing round terms like ‘switched paradigms’, ‘post-patriarchies’, ‘post-orderliness’ … and ‘post’ anything really, that they identify with the period of extreme brutality and fear they had once experienced.
I think you can guess how this play degenerates. Mother and returned veteran son argue how the home should run until an escalating moment of frenzy leaves her with a bleeding nose and the son begging for forgiveness.
We hope younger child Max will escape reliving this past and/or becoming a part of his mother’s vengefully reactive future – either on or off the testosterone supplements. You somehow know that poor veteran Isaac will join the other war-damaged soldiers who are injecting ice in the local ghetto of this dirt-poor home town.
Quite obviously this is not a comfortable theatrical work but you will feel its power from the moment the rising tinsel curtains reveal the first glimpses of bedlam.
HIR is completing a season at Belvoir Theatre.
And back to Henry.