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REVIEW: ‘Hibernation’ by QUT Acting

Playwright: Finegan Kruckemeyer

Director: Catarina Hebbard

Venue: QUT, The Loft Theatre


In a world where the climate crisis is no longer a looming threat but a pressing reality, Finegan Kruckemeyer's ‘Hibernation’ is a breath of fresh air— ironically, one we might need if the play’s harrowing scenario were to unfold! Directed by Catarina Hebbard, this play melds science fiction with intimate human drama. Kruckemeyer's writing manages to convey powerful messages about climate change without being preachy. Instead, it weaves its environmental message through personal stories and even some humour to balance the heavy subject matter. The talented cast of QUT BFA Acting grads, supported by various QUT departments, brings this captivating story to life over three compelling acts.


The first act, set in 2030, imagines a future on the verge of environmental collapse. In a desperate act, world leaders decide to use a gas to put the entire human population into a year-long sleep to give the Earth a chance to heal. Sounds peaceful, right? But it stirs up some tough debates and chilling consequences.

 

In the second act, we follow Pete and Maggie, two characters who don't go into hibernation, for reasons revealed during the play. Their journey from isolation to finding comfort in each other is incredibly touching, emphasising how important personal connections are during tough times. Rad Valance and Madeleine Wilson deliver pure and heartfelt performances as these star-crossed strangers.


The final act delves into the long-term effects of the hibernation experiment from months to years later, prompting the audience to reflect on the consequences of our actions. As characters awaken, the play explores the complexities of human nature and societal behaviour. Huda Akhlaki, as Cassandra, delivers a powerful monologue on post-hibernation discoveries—dairy cows dying, fish populations thriving, dogs becoming dominant, and coral reefs rejuvenating, as people grow fearful, distrustful, and hoard resources. Sound familiar? Akhlaki's ability to convey a sense of wonder and sorrow makes her performance particularly memorable.


Visuals and Design

The tech aspects of 'Hibernation' stand out for their imaginative and immersive qualities, with set design by Alexandra MacDonald creating multiple private and global environments with just a few versatile pieces. Costumes by Hayley Woodward ground the dystopian future in a believable reality. The atmospheric music throughout ‘Hibernation’ resembles the soundtracks of nature documentaries, creating an immersive soundscape that evolves with the narrative. Initially soothing, the music becomes increasingly harrowing as the story progresses. The creative team makes exceptional use of the space, with actors utilising every area of the stage. The projections at the back allow some actors to appear both on stage and on screen, showcasing their versatility in performing for both mediums simultaneously.


Performances

The cast delivers uniformly wonderful performances. Keeley Hay’s portrayal of Emily is a standout, infusing the character with a fierce determination and justified indignation. Hay's ability to convey a wide range of emotions —from egotistic, frustrated, disheartened, and inspirational — makes Emily the most complex figure in my eyes. Her unforgiving ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ energy in Act 3 is particularly unforgettable.


Rue Dallen as Suzanne appears both vulnerable and strong, connecting with the audience on a personal level through an intensely captivating performance (despite her character being a politician). Aristene Kisando brings quiet strength to Chidera, reflecting on the hibernation’s impact on diverse communities and cultures. Josh Nicholls' interpretation of Mark adds yet another layer of complexity to the story, through the examination of ethical dilemmas regarding autonomy and consent. His interactions with the lead characters are always authentic, regardless of the tone required for whichever character he is embodying at the time. Chelsea Doran's portrayal of the child offers an innocent yet profound perspective on the situation, symbolically setting up dominos on stage to reflect the play's themes of cause and effect.


Madeleine Wilson delivers a moving performance as Maggie, showcasing a delicate balance of heart-warming and heart-wrenching moments. Her powerful monologue in Act 2 is raw and vulnerable, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats as we entered the intermission (and perhaps feeling a bit sickened). Rad Valance brings naturalistic charm to Pete, providing some comic relief and a believable compassion but caution towards Maggie. Together, they paint a vivid picture of an alien yet familiar world, using evocative descriptions of nature reclaiming Brisbane.


Impact

'Hibernation' is a culturally relevant blend of speculative fiction and intimate drama, drawing unmistakeable parallels to the COVID lockdowns. It can be compared to works like 'Don't Look Up' (film) and 'Station Eleven' (novel), exploring themes of existential threat and human resilience. The creative synergy between the cast and crew results in a visually enlightening and intellectually stimulating experience that concludes the story with everything falling into place like dominos.


Now playing until 1st June, 2024

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