Back to Back Theatre’s Hell House

Hell House. Here are the people who will suffer in Hell throughout eternity.  According to Pastor Keenan Roberts, anyway. Actually, if you’re reading this, it might mean that you enjoy the theatre, or are creative. In either case, you will probably be going to hell.  I’m already on their list.

Photo: Jeff Busby

I had heard that this Back to Back Theatre piece was not to be missed, so I scurried along to see it instead of attending Triangle once more. It was all quite fun and I do marvel at the production; The effort that has been put into curating the piece, and the staging of this epic production within a maze-like treasure trove of sin and gore.  Definitely a fun experience, (not much more fun than attending a similar naive museum piece that one could experience in Disneyland, mind you,) though I found that it merely forms the backdrop to the panel discussion afterwards. Which only referred rather superficially to the production itself.

Sure, it’s food for thought.  Much like Shotgun Wedding, which nonchalantly said nothing about Marriage in order to speak volumes about the subject matter, we can easily use this production to prompt a discourse about provocation, belief and morality.

From the point of view of a production designer, though, I felt it was quite unnecessary for abounding resources and effort to be poured into this production. My friend Kat blurted to me that she would get the point just as easily had she read about it on Google.  Didn’t we all already recognize that Christians are bothersome? I do realize that everyone has been trying to remain quite civilized and diplomatic about this affair, but seriously, the Christians were always quite vocal about who will go to Hell (my people, the Gays, are first in line,) so why is everyone gingerly pussyfooting around the fact that the original didactic production is rather ridiculous and unfounded? Or rather, in serious need of development, if it is to have any effect at all on today’s wise, worldly and discerning generation.

One Christian raised his hand to proclaim that he and his fellow Christian audience members felt uncomfortable with the possible satire that may have been hinted at.  He received a small round of applause. To which Waleed Aly, (host of Big Ideas on ABC1,) a fundamentalist Muslim himself, swiftly responded that this slight discomfort that he felt would not even compare with what his people experience on a daily basis. Touche.

Although Back to Back Theatre got into a nice hefty chunk of religious strife with last year’s Ganesh and the Thrid Reich, their usual bold unPC stance is overly understated and underwhelming this time around. I think there was much hope that some sort of heated debate would ensue, but everyone remained quite righteous and smug about the whole thing.  And then Clare Bowditch sang a song from her new album.


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