The Joy of Text
Robert Reid's scandalous play asks audiences, is it more important to be textworthy or trustworthy?
Robert Reid's The Joy of Text, directed here by Peita Collard, is meant to be punny. It straight-up references that 1970s classic and explores another radical, albeit fantastical text called The Illusion of Consent — a provocative novel that is being considered for the year 12 syllabus within the play. The four central characters are primed by the performance's focus on a hypothetical story to mar distinctions between truth and fiction.
Danny (Colin Craig) is a smart but vindictive teenager. Flabbergasted by his spunky young teacher's refusal to see his assignment on satire as anything other than a smartass send-up of the system, Danny broods on how best to get his own back. What better way than intertextualising, aka intersextualising, his way through his next oral assignment? There's an immediate, juicy twist: Danny’s English teacher has her own relationship with the novel and some rather personal ideas about what constitutes appropriate behaviour between students and teachers.
Inspired by famous literary hoaxes, The Joy of Text is packed with wordy dialogue and cultural references. Set designer Rob Sowinski has incorporated two onstage screens to provide intellectual 'footnotes' and Danny's peers are brought into context via large projection screen. Stylistically, the use of multimedia works better in some scenes than others, as at times the stage is distractingly busy. However, by the time Danny films the audience with a hand-held camera, effectively breaking the fourth wall, his explanation of satire is both pithy and poignant.
True to its titillating title, The Joy of Text is comedy with an edge — more about literary allusions than laugh-out-loud moments. Overall, it is intelligent and interesting with a focus on clever dialogue, making it enjoyable viewing for big kids who like their schoolroom drama with a serious side of satire.
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