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  • Writer's pictureMaygan Forbes

Unseen Shepard review: When Fiction Fights Back

****4 STARS

As a creator, what happens when your fictional world collides into your reality and the characters demand a different ending? An incredibly fascinating concept cowritten by Nic D'Avirro and Matt Braaten, directed by Martin Jago, Unseen Shepard tells the story of playwright Sam Shepard (played by Matt Foyer) whilst on his deathbed, he recounts the endings of the many characters he gave life to on the stage. But these characters have a bone to pick, and as they begin to haunt him, taunting his condition as a dying man who no longer has the stamina to control their fictional lives, he comes face to face with his motives.

The play opens up with the first of Sam’s characters confronting him (played by Cameron Meyer) and initially I had reservations. Complete with a funky purple wig and an accent I couldn’t quite place, Meyer's initial appearance made me anxious in the direction Unseen Shepard was heading. But my judgements were wrong. Foyer was outstanding in playing multiple characters, the woman scorned, the woman rejected, the woman who escaped an abusive relationship. It all became very apparent that Sam had a particular theme in his plays that he not only explored, but felt inexplicable guilt as he approached the end of his life. In a way to rewrite their endings, he imagined the female characters explain to him why in the 21st century, narratives about the downfall of woman are an archaic and ugly trope that needs to be stamped out. It almost makes you wonder, if famous writers from the 20th century and prior could be alive in this age, would they have regrets on their portrayal of women? There is probably more likelihood of them setting up a podcast instead. Nonetheless, Unseen Shepard does a great job in humanising fiction and what it looks like when your inventions are given free will and fight to be immortalised with the ending they deserve. The dialogue was powerful and despite my initial confusions with Foyer in the funky purple wig, the stage design and costuming supported the overarching themes of the play. However, I would have liked to have seen more of Sam Shepards backstory and what drove the playwright to end up creating the endings that he did.

Aside from that, the writing is truly great; from Nic D’Avirro and Matt Braaten the energy is personified in the script and really brought to life on stage. The story, written with a William Burroughs-esque twang, is strong. Sadly, D’Avirro passed away prior to Unseen Shepard’s debut however the team have done a glorious job in bringing life to the piece and having it play out to a standing ovations at the end.

You can read more about Unseen Shepard's origins here:

Cast List:

Matt Foyer - as Sam Shepard

Cameron Meyer

Matt Braaten

Creative Team:

Writers - Nic D'Avirro and Matt Braaten

Producers - Terry Diab, Matt Braaten, Mary Ellen Braaten

Director - Martin Jago

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