In an empty and decaying room four performers armed only with limited props, a beat up collection of instruments, and a selection of microphones bring to life a tale of anger, rage, and protest that lifts the spirit and goes down as one of the most thrilling and unique shows you’re likely to see at the Festival this year.
A tale of anger, rage, and protest that lifts the spirit
Prehistoric tells the story of the Australian state of Queensland, which in the late 70s laboured under an incredibly corrupt and authoritarian government who used their extensive police powers to attempt to crush and destroy the subversive Punk Rock music scene. In these trying conditions four young musicians come together to form a Punk band as a form of protest. We follow them through the ups and downs of their attempts to fight the power and are forced to question whether real meaningful protest is ever really possible when the odds are stacked so heavily against you.
What really struck me about this show was how completely it embodied the spirit of the Punk Movement. The staging was deliberately sparse and minimalist, with sets constructed by haphazardly joining chairs together or stacking boxes to evoke the deliberately ugly and anti-materialist edge that defined the Punk aesthetic. This spirit is also brought to life by the astounding performances on display, every actor brings a confidence and energy to their performance that, while animating their characters and making them feel real, never fails to ground them in surprisingly touching vulnerability. Indeed the production shows a surprisingly deep awareness of the failings of the movement it celebrates and the script doesn’t shy away from the shortcomings and ultimate futility that relegated Punk to a historical footnote rather than a triumphant victor.
The technical aspect of the show are also marvelously integrated into the ethos of the production. Fantastic lighting design helps perfectly shape the dimensions of every scene and there are a few moments of true brilliance in design that left me amazed at the creative artistry on display. Sound too is utilised to great effect, with microphones often being used cleverly to emphasise the oppressive power of the police that the band combats, their voices amplified over our main characters and forcefully pushed onto us as audience members.
All of these aspects taken together bring this production viscerally to life. It feels raw and real, and we are taken-in completely by the bravery of our protagonists’ struggle and are truly pained by the knowledge of how futile it really is. By the play’s stunning end we are left breathless and worn, a brilliant end to what was truly a stunning performance. Undeniably, Prehistoric is a show you must see and experience for yourself. It a glimpse into a bygone era that I, for one, won’t be forgetting anytime soon.