Sweetest Things

Vena Cava Productions


Sweetest Things

Woodward Theatre, Kelvin Grove QUT 

Vena Cava

10th – 15th September 2012

Reviewed by Meredith McLean


How do you find the truth when it’s hidden amongst secrets, lust, betrayal and deception? This year’s Mainhouse One director, Catarina Hebbard, will attempt to answer this, in her edgy adaptation of Kate Rice’s text Sweetest Things. The work is an investigation of the sacrosanct relationship between student and teacher, and an examination of boundaries that exist within this association. But what happens when temptation allows these boundaries to fail?

Catarina brings a wealth of performance and directorial experience to Vena Cava’s final production of the year, having produced such works as the Matilda award-nominatedMinefields and Miniskirts (MadCat Creative Connections). Her minimal and representational design for Sweetest Things is one that will lead the cast through a twisted mass of uncertainty. This is one scandalous story not to be missed!


Sweetest Things

Sweetest Things is all about layers. No, I’m not talking about the kind ogres have, according to Shrek. I’m talking about the gritty kind; the queasy kind. Queasy. There’s a word that describes perfectly how I felt during this performance. I should explain further; not queasy as in a sense of distaste. Queasy as in that sick kind of feeling where you know what’s going to happen but you can’t look away. It’s like a car crash. Different people involved, some grave consequences and all the while you can’t help but stare.


I did find the playwright, Kate Rice, has presented something that is somewhat a little like a paint by number picture. I wanted to be that smug, obnoxious punter who yells out, “Called it!” when a scene I predicted did indeed come true. But despite the writing and elements of the plot progression being somewhat easy to predict it’s to be expected. We all know exactly what we’ve gotten ourselves into, and to an extent the characters do too. But we watch anyway because the carnage is too good.


The lighting, ah the lighting. There is a wonderful moment. The heated anger between the teacher and the writer is juxtaposed against a very imperturbable, cold water-like flood of light as projectors light up. The manipulation of the screens to communicate messages isn’t unheard of but it is done exquisitely in Sweetest Things. It all draws back to that carnage. That queasy feeling in your stomach as each word flashes.


Be prepared, this is a play where none of the characters are particularly likeable. Each plays their part in the act of exploitation. The writer, though quiet and a little lost amongst the stronger shadows of the perpetrators, has her own agenda. The teacher you will learn is charming and cruel. Meanwhile the girl is vulnerable but perhaps not as innocent as you’d hope.  Other characters too, some played by the same student, miss the signs or perhaps ignore them for their own sake. I found Sebastian Houston’s ability to shift from character to character impressive. That need to be able to interchange between the roles quickly and quietly was executed wonderfully, even stirring a few laughs in the crowd.


But as the program forewarns, this is not a show for children and far from a comedy. Some of the words feel all too real and made me shudder to listen. But I loved it. Under Catarina Hebbard’s direction there is something genuinely chilling about this production. In part it is the content naturally. The visuals too stoke the fear but it is the realness of it all. The contrasting perceptions and stories of those involved gives it a human quality. See the show and decide for yourself who you think was innocent.


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