REVIEW: S-27 || Feet First Collective and Fremantle Festival

Image by Susie Blatchford of Pixel Poetry

Review by Lorna Mackie
July 12, 2019

S-27, written by Sarah Grochala, is presented by Feet First Collective as part of Fremantle Festival – 10 Nights in Port 2019 at the Fremantle Arts Centre. S-27 is a dystopian, partially immersive theatre experience shown in the round. Set in a fictional world where ‘The Organisation’ controls everything, the audience, as traitors to The Organisation are taken for Assessment. Audience members have the option to volunteer for some physical interaction (which is well managed by the cast) prior to the Assessment, which is a more traditional seated play in the round.

Feet First indicates that it aims to present bold, brave ideas, and selected they S-27 for its conceptual and directing challenges. This ethos was evident in the intriguing use of staging and stylised movement by director Teresa Izzard throughout the production, which is chock full of different theatrical styles and tropes.

S-27 is presented with an ensemble cast, with most performers undertaking a variety of roles. All were strong and delivered the challenging material with enthusiasm, although some struggled with the abrupt emotional shifts necessary to lend the work maturity and authenticity. A standout was Gabriella Munro in the role of May, anchoring the production with her stern yet vulnerable portrayal as The Organisation representative undergoing a crisis of faith. Sally Clune and Matthew Arnold were also very strong, and seemed to truly grasp the nuances of emotion necessary to bring the deliberately austere text to life.

Soundscapes and stylised movement was used extensively throughout, with varying degrees of success. While the concepts were well designed, some of the movement scenes could benefit from further workshopping, as the movement became slightly repetitive and lost intensity as actors fatigued during the performance or lost focus.

S-27 aims to explore the way humans react in extremes, the lengths that people will go to for survival, and the atrocities that people will commit on one another for fear and power. During the interactive portion of the show, I heard patrons commenting that “this could never happen in Australia”, and others referencing current global refugee rights policies, evidencing that the concepts explored in S-27 are polarising, topical and relevant.

The show did not pull any punches during some of the scenes, with its graphic description of sexual acts, as well as some stylised depictions. However, there were some missed opportunities to increase the emotional intensity in the portrayal of the guards’ violence towards the prisoners, where the movement was so stylised, some of the emotional impact was lost.

S-27 is an intriguing and innovative production, with some fabulous up-and-coming performers and is well worth a view for something different. Word of warning, wrap up well and expect to spend some time standing in the cold outside!

Performing until 20 July, tickets are available at