The Button Event – A true theatrical experience

Todd MacDonald in The Button Event - Queensland Theatre Company [image supplied]
Todd MacDonald in The Button Event – Queensland Theatre Company [image supplied]
In an auto-biographical theatrical event, Todd MacDonald shares the deeply moving story about a father’s journey through the serious medical diagnosis of Lola, one of his twin daughters.

Devised by the multi Greenroom Award-winning actor Todd MacDonald and acclaimed director Bagryana Popov, The Button Event is a one-man tour-de-force, fusing story-telling, direct address, documentary, physical performance, humour, and a lot of tennis balls.

In the intimate, stripped-back space of the Bille Brown studio, MacDonald was both physically and emotionally vulnerable with only a few white boxes placed around the stage like a tetris puzzle, a piece of string, some chalk and a ladder to help him sort through the maze of confusing medical terms, conflicting schedules, and heartbreaking seemingly impossible decisions that no parent should have to face.

In a physical manifestation of Lola’s illness, about 800 tennis balls were used in the production, symbolising both the little rocks forming in Lola’s brain due to her Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, as well as medical nodes hanging from the ceiling, as Macdonald tries to connect the dots, and more obviously the balls of life, career, and family that he is so desperately trying to keep in the air.

The work is very physical; MacDonald races around to make that voice-over gig, dodging and catching a barrage of tennis balls being pelted at him as he tries to makes home renovations, while juggling hospital appointments, stressful decisions, an ill child, and bills to pay. MacDonald is covered in sweat by the end of the seventy minute piece as a man (and actor) pushed to his limits.

The pacing of the show was well balanced with moments of quiet (though not always calm) littered throughout, as MacDonald listens to medical reports, soothes his child to sleep, or feels the zen of running his fingers through the children’s sandpit as his sits and contemplates.

The piece also borrows from documentary, in that actual medical reports, including the voice of Lola’s doctors are used, as well as the voices of MacDonald’s family (Bec and Ruby) which the piece revolves around.

A mention should also be made to Ben Hughes’ beautiful lighting state (supported by Guy Webster’s ethereal sound design), in the scene with the glowing, floating tennis balls; which created a stunning, serene moment in time.

There is something inherently engaging about watching theatre based on a true story. But when the person it is about also performs that story; it is a truly profound theatrical experience. The Button Event is one such production that is truly worth going to see.

For more information, visit the Queensland Theatre Company Website: The Button Event – QLD Theatre Company.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

Bobbi-Lea is's QLD Co-ordinator, writer, reviewer, and reporter. She is also an actor, presenter, and theatre/film producer for Drama Queen Productions in Brisbane. Bobbi-Lea holds a Degree in Music Theatre as well as a Degree in Film & TV, and is currently doing her Masters in Screen Production.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

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