Wheel of Fortune is series of tantalising vignettes exploring the sordid underbelly of Brisbane, which is apparently writhing with illicit sexual encounters of all kinds, from the obscene to the regretful to the joyous.
The work is designed to be engaging to a modern audience. Cinematic shorts separate each scene, creating a breathing space, just as the scenes get NSFW. It feels a little gimmicky, but it picks up the pace, none of the scenes are rushed, but the snappy feel and the quick jumps between scenes makes for an evening’s entertainment in bite-sized pieces, quite refreshing really compared to the fashion for overly long epics.
Interestingly enough, I discovered the work is based on the scandalous La Ronde, written in 1897 by Arthur Schnitzle. (This was in the notes which I completely failed to thoroughly read before the show! Well, some days I like a surprise…) This early work offered social commentary on relations and tensions between classes and created a furor when it was first printed, and was strictly censored and widely banned. The first performances elicited strong moral condemnation, and led to its author suffering intense harassment. The play has been reproduced and adapted many times.
This adaptation is far from the scandal of those days; wanton it may be, but none of the vignettes offer any resolution, and though they offer food for thought, there is little in the way of intellectual deconstruction. As we cavort through the after-hours action, we are treated to a voyeuristic peep-show of sexual tales, but none of these particularly press the moral buttons. An uncomfortable scene between a young woman who is violently taken in an alleyway pushes the line the most, but the play doesn’t explore the issues of consent, offering only questions and glimpses, make of it what you will. In fact, it was this one scene that offered the most challenging questions about consent; on capitulation against the will, against the inner self that knows better. What kind of treatment we will take in pursuit of romance, or even just affection? Lots to unpack, in fact, but the play goes on, and you can think about that later. A young woman, Insta-famous and ambitious, offers a kind of absolution to her older lovers. A poignant closing scene gives us a path to forgiveness, to embracing our fuck-ups and building ourselves up again, after inevitable failures.
It is quite possible to watch the show and enjoy it for its frivolity, it is delightfully funny and easy to watch. The hi-jinks of socialists and service men, school boys and lawyers, and a decidedly spicy school teacher will certainly keep your attention. Iconic Brisbane imagery and local commentary place the action firmly in the centre of our town, and provide insider jokes for the home crowd. A younger audience fills the Lumen Room, and there are fans a plenty crying out for individual actors tonight.
The class commentary of the original remains firmly on the down low, and leaves you to make your judgements afterwards in the bar; the play sets the scene, but in this modern world of sexual promiscuity are there really any forbidden fruits to scandalize the punters? Wheel of Fortune is fun and fresh, but won’t leave you spent. Perhaps you’ll wander out, curious what you might find for yourself out on the dark streets of Brisbane…
Wheel of Fortune plays Metro Arts 30 May – 9 June 2018
Presented by TAM Presents & Metro Arts
WRITTEN BY / Troy Armstrong, Richard Jordan, Jacki Mison and Krystal Sweedman
DIRECTED BY / Timothy Hill
Executive Producer / Troy Armstrong
Producer / Natasha Walford
Associate Producer / Kenneth Lo
Still Photography / Deelan Do
Cinematographer & Editor / Joseph Meldrum
Lighting Designer / Mikayla Bishop
Sound Designer / Romain Quessaud
Costumes / Bernadette Mailap
Stage Management / Mikayla Bishop, Peter Masters
The Public Servant / Meg Bowden
The American Marine / Richard Lund
The Au Pair / Jacqui McLaren
The School Boy / Brendan Lorenzo
The Biology Teacher / Jacqui Story
The Lawyer / Ron Kelly
The Socialite / Ruby Clark
The Portrait Photographer / Elise Greig
The Stage Actress / Veronica Neave
The Politician / Stephen Hirst
Image by Deelan Do.