Review: MEMBER

MEMBER weaves a gripping tale of brutality and brokenness

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Ben Noble
Photo by Deryk McAlpin
Published 06 Aug 2023

Two waiting room chairs, two surgical screens in that hospital shade of blue. On a raised platform, cellist Simone Seales coaxes beautifully unnerving sounds from their instrument, while Corey – played by Ben Noble, the writer and performer of MEMBER – speaks to his comatose son. Corey’s voice switches to that of the night nurse, who assures him that his son can hear him. But it becomes clear that Corey can only say what he’s about to say because no one is listening.

“The hunts”, a horrifying era of Sydney’s history in the 1980s, saw boys as young as eleven take part in the assault and murder of gay men. MEMBER is a one-man theatre piece about this epidemic of hate crime, told through the haunted recollections of a father who grew up in the thralls of gang violence and its cult of homophobic masculinity.

It takes a while to fully grasp MEMBER’s narrative rhythm, which weaves between vignettes of memory and the present, but its performers’ magnetic presence is instantaneously gripping. Hope is a deft craftsman of tension and release, braiding soft intimacies into violent contradictions. Seales’ cello morphs with animalistic instinct along the contours of Corey’s speech, building to a dissonant climax as forceful as the ocean landscape summoned in his memories.

Corey’s self-awareness about the bloody trail connecting his boyhood to fatherhood sometimes leans didactic, but this is impressively transportative storytelling: a story about brutality and brokenness, and the contagious, intergenerational transmission of hatred.