Red Sky Morning
Room to Play
Lisa Taylor-King Gallery
March 29 – April 8 2017
Reviewed by Katy Cotter
Lauded Australian playwright, Tom Holloway’s, beautiful work is given grace by Brisbane actors, Wayne Bassett, Maddi Kennedy – Tucker and Heidi Manche.
Room to Play strives to create intimate performances in industrial-like spaces outside of the typical theatre. It was my first visit to the Lisa Taylor-King Gallery in Newmarket, and when I stepped inside a backyard tin shed I was intrigued. Being familiar with Australian playwright Tom Holloway’s work, I knew this setting was a perfect match for his story Red Sky Morning. The play has three characters – a man, a woman, and a girl – and it focuses on a traumatic event in the family’s life.
Holloway’s style arose from the post-dramatic movement. During a time when theatre was becoming experimental and fragmented, Holloway took what he loved from those plays and began inserting narrative back in. With overlapping dialogue, reading his plays can be quite the challenge, though seeing one performed well is a testament to his great writing. Director Beth Child has achieved this.
The action was minimal, having each character claim a small portion of the stage. The man (Wayne Bassett) was seated on a sun-bleached grey bench, used to look out over his property or as a counter in his hardware shop. The girl, played by (Madison Kennedy-Tucker) occupied a computer chair that shifted from being a warm bed to curl up on, or a couch to disappear into. The woman, (Heidi Manche) had a chaise-lounge that acted as a bed, a kitchen bench, and a barrier against her stark reality.
Child focussed on the text, which, as I’ve mentioned, switches rapidly at times back and forth between the characters. The actors handled this with precision, listening intently to each other and harnessing the musicality of Holloway’s writing. There were three pauses I can recall when all action and speaking ceased, and the actors and audience were awarded a breath. These were consciously placed by the director and allowed a moment of reflection – the silence was beautiful. Though the pace was mostly all go-go-go, I loved watching the character’s melt into heartbreaking moments, revealing the humanity of Holloway’s work.
These are ordinary people – like you and me – and feelings of frustration, desperation and despair are relatable. Also our ability to laugh in dark times. There are plenty of comedic moments in this play.
A genuine connection exists between the characters and the audience that is not forced. They are confessing their secrets to us, but Child’s direction allows us to ease in and get to know the three characters before hitting us in the guts with that ending. This play is superb in its slow burning tension.
All three performances by Basset, Manche and Kennedy-Tucker are stunning. Whilst completely in the moment of their individual story, they never abandon the other voices but allow those narratives to affect their own.
The production is perfectly balanced, captivating, and emotionally devastating.