5 Min Read

Rich Yet Subtle and Immersive: Mosquito

From the moment you walk into the theatre you’re immersed in a familiar and casual setting which softens the blow of the dark themes set inside this story.  Amber Gilmour is already in front of you pottering around on stage. This soft opening makes the audience feel like they’re part of the story. 

The tone of Mosquito is immediately set for a circular flow in which the audience is at the centre, watching the scenes effortlessly unravel around them. The narrative follows a group of housemates who go to a doof and one of them don’t come home. Rather than unfolding as a ‘whodunnit’ as you figure out what happens to the person that didn’t come home, the narrative tracks how the other housemates respond to their friend’s disappearance.

There are monologues from each character littered throughout, which are spoken like people who lived in an era where therapy wasn’t normalised. The emotional literacy (or lack thereof) is truly reflective of the time this story is set in. However, the relative emotional literacy with which I watched it didn’t make me feel like I would process those events any better than they did. This is what makes stories like this not age despite their temporal setting. Grief is funny like that; there is no right or wrong way to do it.  

Cast of Ella Randle’s Mosquito

The chronology switches between present-day events as the housemates try and solve the mystery and traverse their emotional response, and flashbacks of the events leading up to and on the night of their friend’s disappearance. The transitions between scenes don’t manifest with the usual actor’s departure from stage and costume change. It happens right in front of you on stage. There is barely a moment in the show where an actor isn’t on stage. Elaborate or distinctive costume changes aren’t needed to distinguish between the present and flashbacks; the actors flawlessly execute this time travel with their performances.

Keely Moloney’s directing truly enables the talent of all five actors to shine through, with a good use of all the space around the stage to really encapsulate the audience in the story. Keely has embedded a circular flow that blurs the lines between where one scene ends, and another begins. This reflects the fluid nature of memory and time when trauma is involved.

All five characters have distinctive personalities and process the trauma in their own way, however they were all relatable. Ella Randle’s expert writing makes it very easy to be in the moment in this play and sit with whatever emotions the characters were going through, rather than try and figure out what happened. Perhaps this was enabled by setting it in the 1990s, when life was simpler. Perhaps it is the laid-back suburban share house setting. There are familiar scenes of partying that are relatable to younger audiences, like me who still do this stuff on the regular, and older audience members who were doing it in the 90s, when this play is set.

Utilising the nostalgia that millennials are notorious for and setting it in a time that would make the characters generation x cleverly appeals to a broad demographic. The fact that the 90s is in fashion now could have easily made this play anachronistic. However small details like a landline phone, the white light from a tv casting shadows behind the couch, and printed newspapers and missing person posters among the props strongly root the play in that specific time.

Cast of Ella Randle’s Mosquito

Amber Gilmour stole the show for me; their performance was sharp and unwavering. There was something strangely encapsulating about their performance. While their character may have had a strong personality, the softer, more subtle scenes were just as full. There wasn’t a need for impressive gestures or dramatisation to demonstrate their talent. There were instances where they didn’t even look away to shift the scene from a joyful flashback to a brooding scene set in the present. Their raw and evocative acting manifested a scene change with barely even a blink of the eye.

The sound was also a highlight, with clever use of diegetic sounds to clearly set a scene but with the volume kept low enough to not be too intense on the senses. This makes room for the intensity to pour out of the acting, and other elements. The loudest parts of the show weren’t the party scenes with blaring electronic music, it was the smashing of dishes and other actions consequential to the actors’ movements. The minimal approach to the sound set the scene without needing it to actually be as loud as it would be in real life. Yet this doesn’t take away from the way the play makes it easy to be present.

One of the cleverest subtleties within the play is the moment the title word is spoken. The question of how slapping a mosquito falls onto the scale of violence drops a subtle hint to the ending. Consider this another trigger warning, which you will see postered on the walls as you enter the venue also.

Mosquito produced by Sunburnt Productions Co and The Hayman Theatre Company is on now until November 30 at Curtin’s  Hayman Theatre.