A clever fusion of drama, physical theater, music, dance and media imaging, "Panacea" is an energetic piece exposing modern society's obsession with performance measurement and quantification --- and the media's role in raising expectations --- by focusing on the world of sport in both the former Eastern bloc and the Western world.

A clever fusion of drama, physical theater, music, dance and media imaging, “Panacea” is an energetic piece exposing modern society’s obsession with performance measurement and quantification — and the media’s role in raising expectations — by focusing on the world of sport in both the former Eastern bloc and the Western world.

Inspired by the true story of Jorg Sievers, an 11-year-old who died from complications arising from East Germany’s systematic doping of athletes in the 1970s, “Panacea” is the last of Arena’s “AnthroPOP” trilogy exploring contemporary society especially for youth auds. “Autopsy,” trilogy’s first part, toured Canada.

While revealing the toll of Eastern drug experiments on the young Axel (Brandon Burns) and the older Petra (Genevieve Morris), “Panacea” smartly draws parallels with the commercialization of sports in the West. By introducing Aussie athletes who are miffed East Germany’s medals haven’t been confiscated, we meet ex-swimmer Shelley Green (Fiona Todd), whose self-promotion extends to signing deals to display her silicone-implanted breasts.

Both East and West are shown to be awash with manufactured images, where athletes are creations of medicine or corporations and sports fields are laboratories or boardrooms.

Deft use of videos, photos and lighting combine for a mesmerizing theatrical experience. While shifting narratives and time frames require effort to keep up, “Panacea’s” image saturation replicates the synthetic atmosphere it discusses and achieves what much experimental theater often fails to: a genuine interplay between the various texts at work and the piece’s form — content and context.

Panacea

(DRAMA; ROYAL MELBOURNE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY'S POLICE GARAGE; 350 SEATS; A $ 25 ($ 16) TOP)

Production

MELBOURNE A Melbourne Festival presentation of an Arena Theater Co. production of a play in one act by Julianne O'Brien and David Carlin. Directed by Rosemary Myers.

Crew

Choreography, Philip Adams; costumes, Anna Tregloan; lighting , Ben Cobham; sound, Hugh Covil, Nick Carroll; media artists, Daniel Crooks, Pete Circutt; stage manager, Lisa McGrath. Opened, reviewed Oct. 16, 1998. Running time: 1 HOUR, 10 MIN.

With

Petra ..... Genevieve Morris Axel ..... Brandon Burns Coach ..... Richard Bligh
With: Melanie Baulch, Maria Theodorakis, Nadja Kostich, Fiona Todd, Jim Russell, Bruce Gladwin.

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