It opens outside the tiny wooden box that is Red Stitch’s St Kilda home; the actors come towards us with torches blazing, in medieval masks. What follows is a brief pageant, a morality play that breaks down when one of the players falls victim to a mysterious pestilence – although it’s clear from the catch in the other actors’ voices that this contagion is not entirely unexpected. The actor drops, and his sister must be wrenched from his fallen body before she too succumbs. The plague is about, and all anyone can do is run.
American playwright Jordan Harrison’s The Amateurs had its première in 2018, before our own great pestilence descended like some vengeful deus ex machina, closing theatres around the world, disrupting them still. This seems incredible given how appallingly relevant its themes are, how resonant the play feels, stretching its dramatic tendrils backwards as well as forwards in time. A bunch of desperate actors traversing a blasted wasteland, trying to outrun an unseen but deadly virus? It’s our contemporary experience writ large.