Death Match: The review

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Death Match, the new joint production from Monash University and The Malthouse Theatre, is a dynamic and confronting piece of physical theatre that tackles ambition, triumph, failure, life and death all within the confines of a strange sporting competition where the actors can win or lose.

Director Katrina Cornwell and playwright Morgan Rose have crafted a challenging examination of what it means to truly win at life — whether it means to be liked, to have a great career, a loving relationship. The piece is divided into four stages, each designed to invoke a different facet of the competitive experience. Each stage requires a physical activity, an exercise, whereby one of the actors/contestants will then be eliminated. There are no characters here, only numbers, only contestants.

The design of the show is very minimalistic and effective. The stage itself is a mash up of a basketball court, tennis court and squash court (amongst others) all jammed together. Like any good piece of physical theatre, the space is used well and the near-constant movement of the cast helps maintain a vibrant pace.

Punctuating each stage is a series of conversations between the contestants and this is where the young actors, all 3rd year Performing Arts students, shine, deftly balancing humour, tragedy and frustration as they all attempt to navigate this strange competition.

And while the interplay and different monologues of the contestants are all powerful, where they are let down is in the physical activities themselves. Perhaps due to the intimacy or confines of the rather small theatre but the actual physical exercises themselves were seldom believable. You didn’t believe the contestants were truly working or straining themselves. As much as Death Match touts itself as a ‘real competition,’ it still feels very much like it’s all just play-acting.

Death Match 
Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Till Saturday, 7 October 2017

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