Promising a deeply unsettling theatrical experience, The Irresistible takes us into the subconscious.

The Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) has brought together innovative theatre companies Side Pony Productions and The Last Great Hunt for the premiere of a confronting new work, The Irresistible. A probing examination of unconscious bias and the quick assumptions we make about each other, The Irresistible unfolds in a series of interrelated stories, presenting a darkly humorous take on the world.

“The Irresistible is being made by three core collaborators – Adriane Daff, Tim Watts and myself,” writer and director Zoe Pepper tells Limelight. “At the very beginning of the process, we set out to explore unconscious bias. Understandably this has been a tricky thing to uncover, you know, you’re hunting for something that is implicitly hidden. Through the development of the work we’ve found different tools to help to dig this out. The show is very audio focused, we use a lot of voice modulation that allows Tim and Adriane to play a range of different characters of different genders.”

“And from there we’re looking to unpack how easily swayed we are by the gender of the character’s voice, and how the information presented is treated depending on who you’re hearing it from,” she says.

“Ash and I have worked together many times over the years. He’s a very versatile composer who really writes to serve the work. The world of The Irresistible is dark and unsettling and the score works to subtly disrupt your understanding of the intent of the scene,” Pepper explains. “Manipulating the actors’ voices via radio mics has also given us a lot of freedom to make a dramatic score that heightens the world without the usual stage concerns of maintaining the actors’ audibility. Audio is a big part of all my theatre work and scoring close to the entirety of every show is the way I like to work. Music is such a big part of the emotional life of any story.”

As well as writing the play with Pepper, performers Adriane Daff and Tim Watts have the job of bringing this exploration of the subconscious alive. Some of Australia’s most experienced artists make up the creative teamwith acclaimed composer Ash Gibson Greig, designer Jonathon Oxlade, sound designer Phil Downing, and lighting designer Richard Vabre.

“The two actors, Adriane and Tim play an ensemble of characters,” says Pepper. “They’ve been working together for a really long time so that time has created a really wonderful playfulness and energy when they perform together. When making this show we decided to mess with the conventions of character and transitions, working to make a show that is more fluid with no clear delineation between scenes or characters. It’s a technically demanding show for both of them and they are really rising to the challenge. A lot of the voice manipulation is controlled by the actors who use wii remotes to switch between different character voices so that multiple characters can be a part of the one scene.”

“Ultimately we’re making a really entertaining show,” she says. “There has been a lot of heady research into unconscious bias but all of that work is couched in the narrative. I do hope the work will make people think about the prejudices we all carry.”

The Irresistable is at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts June 14 – 24