THEATRE HAS ALWAYS had the power to present pertinent issues in interesting ways. It is fitting, therefore, that Action Hero’s Wrecking Ball – a piece which explores how images can be constructed or altered from one person to another – has premiered during a period in which the media has had ample opportunity to present extreme events in a variety of ways.
Action Hero – Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse – have always heavily involved the audience in their work and Wrecking Ball begins with James’ character of the photographer interacting with everybody as they take their seats before sitting in the auditorium himself. The unspoken role of the audience as an invisible spectator is acknowledged – and taken further when James tells everyone to pretend they are in his apartment or studio. The act of make believe, which makes theatre so unique, is being explicitly explained. It is this idea of revealing the practices of traditional theatre that provide the duo with an unexpected trajectory throughout the play. Gemma’s character is a celebrity who attends a photoshoot to create album artwork which will make her record ‘sell.’ However, the dynamic between the pair is that of confusion, frustration and ultimately resistant compromise. James and Gemma have an obvious chemistry and shorthand when acting which makes it easy to understand why they have been exclusively collaborating for over a decade.
The audience take on many roles in this piece; from the camera to a clever device at one moment to demonstrate the predictability and constructed nature of dialogue in a play. We are taken on a journey along with Gemma’s character in discovering what is real and what is not and everything seems to go awry when you realise all is not as it seems in the middle of the piece. A particular moment involving ice-cream allows the pair to show that people will take anything presented to them at face-value as there is usually no reason to believe otherwise. It also shows a sinister side to this unquestionable belief.
The minimal set draws more focus to the various props used to demonstrate this possible construction and the music adds depth to the idea of how art can be used influence us. This all adds to the poignant crescendo to end the piece which happily leaves much ambiguity.
Wrecking Ball is a strong look into how things can be shaped to evoke particular feelings and manipulate emotions with a few welcome surprises along the way.