REVIEW: SAMO Is Dead
By Alex Mcleay
“SAMO©,,, 4 THE SO-CALLED AVANT-GARDE”
Much knowing laughter was shared by the audience on the opening night of SAMO is DEAD. Directed by Sophie Bryant and writen by Jodi Rabinowitz, SAMO is DEAD combined the gritty and bold ideas of Basquiat and contemporary art with the banality of small-town Australia. The Reginald Theatre became a sleepy cafe, overseen by a haunting, Basquiat inspired mural.
SAMO© was a tag created by Basquiat in the 70s, critiquing New York modern life and the SoHo art scene. SAMO is DEAD, in a similar vein, is a reflection of contemporary Australia, and probably feels hyper-relatable to any young creative. The interplay between the three characters of Beth, Luke, and Holly encourages an audience’s self-reflection, given how familiar we all are with the archetypes of the edgy girl, the artist, and the slut.
But, of course, they are not simply their stereotypes. Sophie Peppernell as Beth beautifully utilises her solo vignettes, bringing out history and complexity of character. Her frustration is almost palpable, in her glares, her snarky jabs. Chris Rowe brings some charm to such an affected (read: wanky) character. Perfectly self-obsessed, Rowe captured the sincerity of Luke’s ego and fanaticism. Holly’s confidence was dynamically delivered by Akala Newman, who made the most out of her movement, hair flipping, and gum smacking.
I felt like I had met all these characters before. It was a constant mix of familiar and unique, cliched and original. The conversations sounded like ones I had had just last week. But the mix of surrealism, mania, and stagnation evaded banality. The character SAMO, played by Theo Murray, was an interesting presence, inciting dissonance and disconcertion.
The set was large and intimate, half cafe, half bedroom. It could have almost been Newtown, had the chalkboard not said that coffee was only two dollars. The little details brought it to life; the children’s drawings pinned to the counter, the stack of VHS tapes in Luke’s room. The poetry scrawled on the wall’s of Luke’s bedroom are like a mood-board meets shrine. All of this is overseen by a graphic and unsettling canvas mural, with eyes to rival T.J. Eckleburg.
Few plays feel so strikingly familiar as SAMO is DEAD. It questions what is real, what is genuine, what it means to be yourself. If your life doesn’t already have enough coffee, drugs, and pretentious conversations about what art is and should be, see SAMO is DEAD. If your life has plenty of these things and you want more, see SAMO is DEAD.