It’s a quarter to ten and you’re four pints in with your mates. Sitting in the corner of some slightly sticky bar whose name you didn’t properly read as you came in, and whose beer you’d probably hate if it wasn’t $5 a pint. You’re chatting and laughing, a little too loud now, and as glasses drain and garnishes are absentmindedly chewed, you’re suddenly struck with the inevitable conundrum; whose round is it anyway? The glasses are empty, and the uncomfortable glances begin. Who will step up and save the evening? Who will call ‘my shout’?
If, like me, you grew up in Western Australia and reached that pinnacle of your so-far-so-boring teenage life (that all so important drinking age of eighteen whole years, surrounded by BWSs on every corner and a cacophony of nightclubs with sticky floors and slightly irresponsible happy hour deals) this show will definitely speak to your soul—and slightly damaged liver!
It’s the moments like these, those little victories and steep learning curves, those powerful feelings, and awkward struggles, that are captured so beautifully by the cast of My Shout.
Armed only with a table, some stools, and a backdrop of bottles and glasses in Perth’s Blue Room Theatre, My Shout is the debut show of youth theatre company Undercurrent. Directed by Samuel Bruce and devised and performed by Shaun Johnston, Christopher Moro, Scarlet Davis, Claire Appleby, and David Stewart (who also live scores the performance), My Shout demonstrates the immense talent of local Western Australian creatives and is altogether a fantastic piece of theatre!
Grok was lucky enough to chat to Samuel Bruce and Christopher Moro about the show and its origins.
My Shout is exploring Australian drinking culture in an unexpected way, a theatre production! What is it about the theatre space that makes it suitable for My Shout?
Samuel Bruce (S): Performing live in front of our audience provides an opportunity to share the
experiences that, for example, a night out drinking has to offer. The show is utilising lighting, sound design, bar related iconography, the texture of liquid, personal stories and stylised movement to allow the space to deliver these experiences to the audience.
There is obvious attention to detail in the performance design. The lighting design so flexibly moves from evoking a nightclub atmosphere as the cast dances intoxicatedly across the space, to a beautiful sunrise as they conclude their ‘best night of the year’, a little battered and bathed in gold. The props are understated and simple yet are integrated so well into every part of the show.
(S): Whether that be the euphoric feeling of alcohol circulating through the body; or the
transformation of a friend as they have one too many; or even the sense of play, mess and excess that is part and parcel of a big night. The show explores how these experiences can be moments of connection and disconnection with others, and I think the live theatre component is essential so that the performers and the audience share this as a collective.
For me, the variety of movement sequences was honestly a highlight, and they captured my attention throughout the piece. With the volume of individual monologues exploring a range of experiences, the show absolutely could have been self-indulgently static and disinteresting—but rather its sequences were visually engaging, well-rehearsed, and provided enthralling (and often hilarious) accompaniment to spoken pieces.
Australian drinking culture is often treated with a special kind of reverence; criticisms of Australian alcohol consumption are often met with pushback, and regarded as ‘unAustralian’. How did you make space to explore the taboos around our relationship with alcohol?
(S): Australian drinking culture is broad and diverse. For this reason, we found confidence in
speaking to our own relationship to alcohol. This meant that anything we would address stemmed from our own experiences and was geared towards how we connected through drinking. […] The idea of excessive drinking was one of many things that came to light early on in the devising process and is one example of how our characters find moments of connection and disconnection with those around them.
The breadth of experiences in the show was impressive. For its length, My Shout finds the space to explore the reasons behind people’s desire to drink, as well as people’s choice not to. It also offers sophisticated critiques of drinking culture and its impact on young people, while simultaneously celebrating the feelings of invincibility, euphoria, and connection that it brings.
Being comprised of so many perspectives, My Shout was certainly at risk of slipping into the dreaded realm of cliché and stereotypes. However, it avoided such a slippage through its gentle, compassionate treatment of every experience it represented—whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
(S): It was a tricky balance we had to find when making the work, not to celebrate drinking, as
many of us in the work have been affected by the negative repercussions of alcohol. But also, not to condemn drinking, as we all can also see the positive aspects of drinking such as connecting with new people. We hope the work can speak for itself and allow the audience to consider their own stance on drinking and that of society more broadly.
By acknowledging the presence of the good, in the bad, and vice versa, the show avoided any distracting agenda and presented a piece that spoke to young experiences without judgement. As a young audience member (with slightly questionable drinking habits) I relished in a piece that acknowledged my experiences in its candid and authentic stories, and represented them as they are; the funny and the sad, the stupid and the empowering—the struggles in inheriting a culture that is both problematic and integral to the quintessential Australian identity.
(S): One of the main challenges we had was determining what content to keep, as this would
influence the trajectory of the story. To resolve this, we decided to focus on each character’s relationship to alcohol and their possible experiences of connection.
Some of the standout pieces included Claire’s hilariously manic and oddly seductive rendition of “Tequila” as a karaoke piece, while Christopher, Shaun and Scarlet danced on. The image of Christopher kneeling on the underside of the table, hands spread, evoking (for the pretentious eye I suppose) an image of Jesus Christ, as the others fill glasses of water on his hands and head until they spilled over, was one I found highly confronting—though I couldn’t tell you why. As one of the few moments of stillness in the show, it was incredibly powerful and active.
The ‘Shots?’ sequence was a mastery of comedic timing and a little too relatable! And the ‘Rules of a Shout’ was as surprisingly educating as it was clever and amusing, and something I intend to bring to my next drunken jaunt for sure!
Christopher Moro (C): This process was an extremely collaborative one. Myself and all the entire cast
assisted in not only the writing, but also creating the movement and imagery throughout the work.
It was evident that the stories were important to the performers; the four cast members worked with a profound closeness that was obvious in their interactions, often completing very fast-paced and risky movements with complete trust in each other. Not a single centimetre of the stage nor a side of the table was left unused, which often resulted in very creative (and sometimes slightly anti-OHS) group movements, including people sliding across the table and one notable battle for water. The choreography in these sequences was observably thoughtful and had the potential to be dangerous were the cast not as in tune with each other as was evident.
It was also so nice to see a show where gender wasn’t a prescribed boundary to interactions and affection; the platonic (and occasionally romantic) interactions between the cast created a genuine atmosphere of closeness and connection, which drove forward the messages of the show.
(S): The theme of connection and disconnection emerged quite early on as a theme we wanted to pursue and that has really informed the work […] Developing the structure and each performer’s personal journey within the show really assisted the rest of the process and it’s been a case of refining that work since.
So what’s next for the Undercurrent Theatre Company?
(C): Our next project development will be directed by Scarlet Davis, Claire Appleby is doing AV design, David Stewart will be performing, and Samuel Gordon Bruce will be doing Dramaturgy and Producing. In the future we hope to collaborate with various local and international artists, a mix of new and familiar faces to allow us to engage with a variety of voices, stories and perspectives.
My Shout is a good indication of what to expect from Undercurrent as a company: ensemble-based theatre with strong physicality and integrated design.
All in all, My Shout was a brilliant piece of theatre that made you laugh, then cringe for laughing. Its compassionate (yet highly aware), largely joyful and slightly cynical treatment of a drinking culture we all know, mostly love and slightly regret, was a pleasure to watch—and left me as warm as it did questioning whether I should give the next pint a miss.
Undercurrent is a company that will do incredible things for the young Perth arts scene and is one to keep an eye on in the future!