Sydney’s Milk Crate Theatre doesn’t produce a lot for public consumption, but when it does, the work counts.
Devised in a collaborative theatre making process and staged in Petersham Town Hall, Natural Order takes its audience into the tender embrace of DAVO (District Advanced Vocational Outlet), a new kind of social services provider that expends more resources on its PR message than helping its clients.
Once inside it, we find ourselves subject to a series of petty indignities and quirkily reimagined bureaucratic loops of the kind that make life for people seeking help not only more difficult but entirely dispiriting.
Designer Emma White transforms the Town Hall into a somewhat haunting labyrinth using portable walls and screens that come together and apart as the show unfolds. Liam O’Keefe’s lighting, sound by James Brown and Bella Martin, and audio-visual installations by David Molloy bring this cavernous room alive.
Not all of the devised elements hit with the same force but director Margot Politis has her appealing cast of actors and Milk Crate ensemble members working well together.
Alicia Gonzalez and Aslan Abdus-Samad exude cult member creepiness as white-garbed client interface types. Singer Darlene Proberts leads a stinging but fabulous number composed by Tim Hansen from the Town Hall stage.
It’s not as polished a piece of theatre as 2015’s This House is Mine (staged in the Eternity Playhouse) but the immersive aspects of the performance are beguiling and the work bears all the Milk Crate hallmarks: authenticity, honesty, gallows humour, generosity of spirit and a sense of mission that goes beyond mere entertainment.