Beauty in the bleak

Ensemble Theatre cast members at rehearsal for RENT - The Musical.

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

RENT – the breakout musical that sung loudly for the most downtrodden – has been revived by a South East theatre troupe.

Escapees Theatre Company is performing the powerful and affirming multi-award winning work at Drum Theatre.

Its director Steve McPhail says the times and the place still suit the musical, which debuted in Melbourne in the late ’90s.

“Issues affecting the most marginalized people in our society have not decreased since then.

“You can watch a musical that shows real people affected by disease, poverty and loneliness inside the Drum Theatre in Dandenong while these very same people are sleeping rough within a stone’s throw of the very same building.

“Homelessness, loneliness, addiction and disconnectedness continue everywhere but unfortunately they are very prevalent in Dandenong, which has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the state.”

Most movingly for McPhail, the musical explores the issue of resilience.

“Resilience is more sustainable when vulnerable people make connections with others.

“There is a moment when one person in a life support group stands and asks the questions, will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?

“They are then joined by the whole company asking the same questions.”

The show’s classic song Seasons of Love is another emotional peak performed at the memorial of LGBTQI character Angel who succumbs to AIDS.

“It exemplifies the importance of what we mean to our friends.

“Angel’s lover Collins sings that his ultimate act of love is to cover him.

“This resonates as a simple hug or a blanket or a shelter will provide cover and comfort. It is all a human being needs to live for today, when their future can seem awfully bleak.”

For McPhail, the marketing slogan for RENT is an apt summation – ‘No Day But Today’.

“If we all experienced one other person ‘covering’ us every day, life is beautiful.

“This is what moves us when we experience the music, the story, the characters in RENT.”

He well sees the parallels with his partner Shari’s work as a homelessness general manager at the South East-based service Wayss.

“RENT has a very positive message that human connection is the most important of all needs if we are to help one another overcome the social problems explored in the show.

“Wayss does exactly that – they support our community’s most marginalised people who are experiencing homelessness as a result of a multitude of issues such as family violence.

“They help connect vulnerable people with others who can support and provide them with solutions and basic care.”

Escapees Theatre Company presents RENT at the Drum Theatre, Dandenong on Thursday October 6, Friday October 7 and Saturday October 8, 7.30pm. Bookings: