RealTime Arts

Next Wave: future tense Potential versus perfection

Keith Gallasch on Designer Child

Stylishly, sculpturally designed and lit with rich dense colour, making deft use of masks and projections and with the techno-technical crew in view, Rawcus’ production of their own devising, Designer Child, creates an otherworldly space that hovers between an inexplicable nightmare and a blunt satire of a genetically modified future. A mother-to-be is faced with the hard-sell of the genetics industry, subjected to physical probing and quizzed relentlessly and patronisingly about her ideal child. Her retorts are wickedly droll, belying any sense of her limited capacities. The dream of calculated perfection is countered with the potential (so evident in performance) of those who have disabilities but have their own distinctive intelligences, skills and personalities. Nonetheless, despite the mother’s anxious repudiation of what’s offered (from men with genius, strength and height, but with the odd flaw—haemorrhoids or hay-fever) and the show’s other swipes at the likely blandness that will come of uniform perfection, she is still tempted, her hand reaching out at the show’s very end, like God’s in the Sistine Chapel, to that of the specimen on offer, a new Adam. Like the recent news reports of a deaf American couple wanting to have deaf children, the complexities of Designer Child are sometimes unsettling. In a different way so is the script: the TV gameshow format is very creaky, the roles for the ‘able’ performers are bland, and some scenes, while internally rigorous, don’t fit the whole at all comfortably. The work is not as sophisticated as that of Back to Back Theatre, but it is the company’s first major showing, and like its subject matter, it’s all about potential rather than perfection. There’s much to admire in the ensemble playing, in the clever devices designed to integrate and maximise the range of company skills, and in the support for the project from Theatreworks and the City of Port Phillip (one of a Next Wave’s community connections).

Designer Child, devised by Rawcus, director Kate Sulan, set & costume Amanda Silk, sound design Katie Symes; Theatreworks, St Kilda, Melbourne, May 19-26.

RealTime-NextWave is part of the 2002 Next Wave Festival.
RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 pg. 5
© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to