Onset features a cluster of intense revelations that lead each character to their moments of triumph and suffering. It demonstrates pain and passion through dialogue and dance, as well as sound and lighting.
The audience is indulged with tiny insights into the mental anguish and the setting that is responsible for these medication-requiring (mostly) incidents.
As we listen to a character, they converse with a third party who pokes at their history until they hit a sore spot – the thudding heart beat that accompanies the overwhelmed high achiever is a familiar sense for most spectators.
After we realise their “onset” is being addressed, we are transported to that moment in time, privy to scenes few would struggle to recognise from their own pasts.
Onset is the product of WAAPA student and actress/writer/director Hayley Whisson’s collaboration with her peers. As each story is relayed we reflect on whether the moments presented before us are true for those performing them. If not, we’ll put their sincerity down to convincing, formidable acting.
What most stood out was the movement, a valued asset in this case.
It could at times be jarring, startling the crowd with the sudden onslaught of a heavy beat and whirring lights. However, each actor pulled our focus irrevocably back as soon as they stepped in time.
The choreography was beautiful, and the actors showed power in their movement. I especially enjoyed the solidarity as we witnessed all story switches – presented similarly to a baton passing – with observable costume changes.
The writing was genuine – if a little juvenile in its simplicity – as we shifted nervously in our seats at each relatable line.
The topics breached hit close to home and might cause a few pauses in thought for those sensitive to issues such as mental illness, parental smothering, and abuse.