[THEATRE REVIEW] CHASE Review – The Malthouse Theatre

The human mind is a wonderful yet fragile thing! That is the one thought I had when I left The Malthouse Theatre last night after watching the opening of Chase. I see so many films and watch so many pieces of theatre that it is rare that something challenges me anymore. Yet last night I found Chase challenging me in such a way that I times I literally felt confused until everything fell into place and I had that “I just got it moment”.

Directed by Kamarra Bell-Wykes Chase takes its name from the production’s central character played by Carly Sheppard. Chase is a social media influencer, a vlogger on YouTube, who has created her own following with her show Clap Chasey.

Now Chase finds herself alone living in a dwelling made up of found materials. The world is a very different place, as Chase herself says “there has been no land for a long time”, and she is forced to live with night terrors and visions while drinking her own urine and eating cockroaches.

Chase still talks to her followers though and is daily joined by her ‘friends’ who are actually dolls. There is the trendy influencer Influenza (nicknamed Fluey), the very serious Sally and Chase’s spiritual guide Traditional Girl.

It is kind of hard to describe everything about Chase and the world that she lives in without going into spoiler territory. I’ll admit that at the very start of the production I was wondering what the hell was going on. Who was the strange person that drank her urine and had a collection of dolls each with their own persona? I was enjoying the performance and marvelling at the acting ability of Carly Sheppard but I was still wondering – WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON???

As the production went on though I began to realise exactly what had happened and why Chase was living the way that she was. It was when all those jigsaw pieces fell into place for me that I suddenly realised that both Bell-Wykes and Sheppard and pure geniuses and two of the most exciting talents that we currently have in Australian theatre.

The way this show comes together is nothing short of brilliant. From the strong performance from Sheppard as she plays not only Chase but the personas of her dolls through to amazing visuals that are projected onto the wall behind Chase throughout the production. Everything interacts together perfectly and fills like a glorious collision between experimental theatre and arthouse cinema.

Rounding out that perfecting is the set design of Smallsound. It fills the smaller space of The Tower at The Malthouse amazingly well and allows Sheppard to use every piece of space throughout the production – at times she even contorts herself through what is basically her bed-frame.

Much of the genius of this production thought must fall with Carly Sheppard though. Her performance is a mixture of drama, comedy with some acrobatic contortion thrown in for good measure. At times she slinks around the stage like a cat moving her body around her space as her mind slowly goes more and more insane.

I have no doubt that you get a lot more out of Chase once you realise what has happened to create the world that Chase now lives in, but don’t despair because all the clues are there for you in the dialogue and the visuals you just have to be smart enough to put them all together. Yes this is a challenging production that makes its audience work for a result… but the result is worth the hard work.

4/5 Stars