Rooted – Don’t Look Away

Status anxiety exists, no matter what decade you're in.
Mairead Armstrong
Published on November 07, 2013


How can a play from 1969 be relevant to society today?

Bentley is a man who puts too much trust in consumerism. He has the perfect apartment. He is exceedingly successful at work. He has good friends and copious amounts of "the old Resch's" chilling in his fridge. He's even managed to nab the dream girl. Bentley has done everything society has told him to do, so how could everything go so horribly wrong?

Does that sound irrelevant to you and your life today? Don't Look Away is a production company dedicated to the revitalisation of ageing Australian plays, breathing life into forgotten, or neglected, classics. And Alex Buzo's lost gem Rooted is a stellar choice. They've confidently positioned the classic within the context of 21st-century society, in an exploration of the lengths people will go to achieve success.

Darkly satirical and disturbingly true, Rooted was first performed at the NIDA Jane Street Theatre in 1969. Now — over forty years on — it's been brought back to life and, fittingly, is showing at NIDA's Parade Theatre.

Under the bold direction of Phil Rouse (Ham Funeral), this A-class group of performers — an impressive crop of emerging Australians actors — deliver exciting performances. Although at times incredibly unlikeable, their characters reveal truths about status anxiety in their constant quest to impress the omnipresent (but never actually seen) 'Simmo'. George Bander is a standout as Bentley; his haunting performance proof that an obsession with consumer society will ultimately see you yourself consumed.

It's set against a seriously cool soundtrack, consisting of some very current bangers, and set design by Anna Gardiner is also notably striking, changing several times throughout the course of the play. Stark white walls act as a canvas to the stylish, modern lives of these characters, with stunning lighting design by Sian James-Holland.

Unlike much Australian theatre of both past and present, Buzo's play lacks the usual burden of current affairs, political statements and strong social opinions. What you see is what you get with this script, Rooted remaining as potent for the audiences of today as it was in '69. This will suit some; perhaps others will find it has a somewhat shallow effect. Either way, this remains a production that is full of flavour, Don’t Look Away channeling a youthful energy and intelligence into this forgotten classic.

And that is always going to be a good thing.


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