Operating since 2002, Red Stitch – The Actors’ Theatre, has presented more than one hundred plays. To date, the boutique company’s extensive list of critically – acclaimed work includes:
- Rules For Living;
- Jumpers For Goalposts;
- The Pride; and
- The Honey Bees.
With the collective’s strong emphasis on alternative and less mainstream product, their latest piece is in fact a world premiere.
Desert: 6:29pm, by Morgan Rose, is a powerful slice of home – grown suburbia.
Told in snapshot bursts, the linear narrative figuratively and literally lifts the lid on its working class family dynamic. At ninety minutes in length, Rose both explores and deconstructs the parent – child generational divide to maximum effect, in this exciting new comedy – drama.
For its first twenty minutes, the jokes come thick and fast. Laughs however, when a local tragedy makes news headlines, are gradually replaced by soul – searching pathos.
Without giving too much away, at times I felt like I was watching the Australian equivalent of Mike Leigh’s 1991 motion picture masterpiece, Life Is Sweet. Meaning, whether they will admit it or not, the inhabitants in Rose’s world are all hovering on the inevitable cusp of change.
Casting and creative support, work in faultless tandem to produce a top – notch result.
Leading the charge, Eva Seymour (as Xan) shows tremendous range as a troubled teenager with a dark secret. Her intensity here reminded me of Kristen Stewart, Nadine Garner, and a young Judy Davis.
Sarah Sutherland (as Crystal) and Joe Petruzzi (as Rico) are her playful, puzzled, and resigned parents. Youthful dreams are no longer part of their equation. But together, they do their best to survive.
As Xan’s older brother, Jamie, Darcy Kent fulfils the promise he displayed in Vile (for La Mama). With a rich inner world dedicated to video war games, Jamie too, uses fantasies to survive. He also has another life separate from his family.
Ella Caldwell (as Abby), is the nervous outsider, wondering if becoming involved with this curious foursome is the right decision.
Bridget Balodis directs with a keen eye.
Text and subtext are handled with equal aplomb. In her care, as viewers, we are always invested in the unfolding story. (It should be noted that Tom Healey and Jean Goodwin, were respectively responsible for dramaturge and voice coaching).
Thanks to superlative stage management from Genevieve Davidson and Grace Lowry, scenes are sliced up using brilliant transitions, a technique applied with similar power to Picnic At Hanging Rock (Malthouse Theatre, 2016).
Streamlined set and costume design (by Romanie Harper), lighting design (by Amelia Lever – Davidson), and composition and sound (by Ian Moorhead), all combine to give Desert: 6:29pm a filmic edge not unlike two David Lynch classics, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.
The use of a reinforced wooden frame elevation fronting the set is inspired, and reinforces the show’s Rear Window voyeurism. What we are witness to are private conversations and conflicts, not meant for public consumption. Like MTC’s Other Desert Cities or Betrayal, which both used physical barriers to separate the actors from the audience, this device alone makes Desert: 6:29pm even more gripping in its overall story – telling.
Red Stitch have done it again. Don’t miss it.