Suddenly all the women in the world grow to Nine Foot Nine - Alex Wood's script focusses on effect over cause, in a confluence of clever complexity:

There’s a freedom to Nine Foot Nine, a refreshing determination to break a mould that’s ironically inherent in fringe theatre, itself a place that claims to push the envelope of possibility. Sleepless Theatre Company are committed to promoting access in as many forms as possible. Their latest production contains surtitles, despite the perceived notion that this is prohibitively expensive. It casts blind in terms of ethnic background & disability, and as such promotes a harmony found in mother Cara (Alexandra James), who communicates both through speech and sign language. Director Helena Jackson has carefully considered how such lines are framed so as to simultaneously integrate both means of presentation and yet highlight the impacts unique to each.

Nine Foot Nine Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Alexandra James (image courtesy of Katie Edwards)

The fact that these efforts are worthy of praise only serves to show how much further we have to go in the theatrical community. Proud to proclaim ourselves as progressive, we need companies such as Sleepless Theatre Company to constantly challenge the status quo and shift the perception that considers such aspects to be alternative rather than typical. The reason that this ethos has such force within Nine Foot Nine is that this is fundamentally a strong, well-crafted and assured show.

In Alex Wood’s alternate reality, the women of the world suddenly start growing taller and taller, without warning or precedence. The beauty of this narrative is that its cause is unimportant – Nine Foot Nine looks at the effect on society when the physical power balance shifts away from the misogynistic male.

How will we react when our advantage is stripped from us?

In this production, we witness the inherent stubbornness to accept such a change on a personal, societal and global level.

Nine Foot Nine Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Alexandra James (image courtesy of Katie Edwards)

It’s the little details that connect us to the Nine Foot Nine characters. The opening scene between Nate (Paul O’Dea) and Cara (James), upon realising they’re going to have a baby, is adorable and infectious – their joy seeps into your bones and takes root, which makes their gradual growing apart all the more heart-wrenching to watch. This emotional journey is but one of the strands making up Wood’s richly crafted tapestry, one that Jackson adds definition and detail to through the strength of her vision and the collaboration with her design team. Verity Johnson’s stark white set is the landscape needed for Jessica Hung’s vivid lighting and Nicola Chang’s subtle sound designs.

Jackson is the coherent force behind such complementary concepts. Scene transitions and timehops are slick and distinct; lines are carefully spaced, never rushed or skipped but given the tempo that best fits the encounter or the atmosphere. The future meetings between Cara and estranged daughter Sophie (Natalie Kimmerling) contain their own narrative arc, one that develops by itself but still contributes to the overall direction of the story. Jackson keep multiple facets precisely in balance and makes it seem effortless.

Nine Foot Nine Breaking Out Bunker Theatre

Natalie Kimmerling (image courtesy of Katie Edwards)

Nine Foot Nine is a confluence of clever and complex choices by the whole team. It tackles self-identity, self-purpose and self-belonging on a micro and macro level, with the actors confidently keeping personal development and wider political purpose side by side. The focus slowly shifts between the two in a piece that can provoke thought, provide laughter and promote access, all in the space of an hour.

 

 

★★★★☆

Nine Foot Nine runs on Mondays and Thursdays until 7 July 2018, one of the Breaking Out plays as part of The Bunker Summer Season. For more information, please visit the venue website.