4.5 Stars

By Cassandra Yiannancou

A bag hangs from the ceiling, the music reaches a crescendo and it drops to the floor. Moments later a woman crawls her way out of the bag, screaming and crying like a newborn baby. This is our Runt.

Patricia Cornelius’ work can usually be identified by two major factors; tough, passionate stories about the people forgotten by Australian theatre and the rest of the world. And, most of the time, with Susie Dee as the director. This creative duo have combined forces to bring us a battle cry for the runts of the world.

Once again Patricia Cornelius has written a show with teeth. The play does not drag, and together with Susie Dee’s direction, Runt comes out of the gate howling for a shameless and wicked 60 minutes, about a woman experiencing trauma and being kicked around by the rest of the world. Emerging standing taller than everyone and everything around her.

Nicci Wilks is not just the sole performer in this play but also a co-creator, and that deep connection is palatable in the performance from start to finish. It is no easy task to be the only person on stage. and it is a credit to her endurance and presence as an actor that she is able to maintain an engaging energy from start to finish.

Cornelius’ work demands the sound of Australia that is forgotten by the middle and upper classes, it cannot be spoken with a silver spoon in the mouth. Wilks’ annunciation perfectly encapsulates the persona and background of Runt, taking no prisoners and leaving no room, or want, to apologise.

A simple stage with a wooden circle which Wilks performs, crawls, runs and stamps in creates both a prison and gladiator arena, depending on what our Runt is facing. Designer Romanie Harper has created a simple but versatile set, that works for an audience sat all around the stage. A bag that could be used to drown an unwanted litter, and was the same place our Runt was born from, becomes an armour, used to rally the runts of the world to liberation.

The show is a deeply physical work, Michelle Heaven’s choreography keeps visuals interesting and gives meaning to the dialogue.

Jenny Hector’s lighting design creates a sense of foreboding, feeling at times like a womb and other times like a war room. It works well with composer Kelly Ryall’s sounds, to give the audience a sense of a world ready to be tipped.

The focus on form while creative, often lead to moments of introspection, where the show withdraws from its audience. This can be expected in a close collaboration, but can sometimes result in the audience needing to play catch up.

With that said, this play will stay with you long after you have left the theatre and are on your trip home. In fact, for days after, the experience of Runt will play in your mind, leaving you with an urge to take on the big dogs.

This season is currently sold out, but if more tickets become available it is well worth the experience.

Image: Pier Carthew