Theatre Review: Cathedral (World Premiere)

Floating on a wave of imagination


Presented by State Theatre Company South Australia and Country Arts SA in association with Flinders University

Reviewed 11 May 2022

As I sit down to write about my experience watching this new work by Caleb Lewis I find myself trapped in a dilemma that reflects the journey of this beautiful exploration of a life reflected in a moment before…

No, I can’t spoil your experience of it. I came away in a very uplifted and reflective place having just been given the gift of choosing to heal my past or progress on into my future on my own terms. Sometimes really well-crafted theatre is a lesson for us all that we learn not by being preached to but by what we experience at the hands of the actor that brings a clever story to life for us.

Nathan O’Keefe is no stranger to South Australian theatre-goers. In fact, he is no stranger to theatre-goers in Australia and several different continents who have been lucky enough to see this gifted storyteller in action. Under the expert direction of Shannon Rush, a home grown product who is making quite a name for herself as a theatre director, O’Keefe breathes life into the gloriously poetic script that Lewis has created as a moment in time to reflect on our pathway and how to forgive and absolve ourselves of all the guilt we carry from the day we experience consciousness. Or, as in this case, just a little before that day, until we are forced to make a choice between life and death by a rash act.

It is a memory play; it is a play about helplessness; it is a play about hope; it is a play about salvation. In his notes, Lewis reflects on the emotional tightrope we have walked since Covid came into our lives. The losses we are mourning of family, friends, people we had forgotten we cared for; and the toll that has had on us. He is a modern-day poet who puts me in mind of Dylan Thomas in the way he breathes life into words for the actor to use. The choice to use water, and the experience we get from immersing ourselves in it, when we quieten our external input and envelop ourselves in a world of silence that alerts all our other senses, gives Lewis, and O’Keefe, scope to assault our senses with an emotional and intellectual roller coaster that, at times, leaves us breathless with the wonder of the world Lewis has created with his deft and accurate text. See? I couldn’t stop that thought and it’s the longest sentence! This work expands your mind. I have done a few dives myself, and the way Lewis describes the descent into water is extraordinary. I found myself holding my breath in wonder; the first of many moments this text and performance left me holding my breath.

I think you might have gathered I was impressed by this work. The collaborations that State Theatre has had over the last few years with Country Arts SA have resulted in productions that let our country South Australia audiences experience first class theatre they normally don’t get access to. This continues the tradition in association with Flinders University. It is fresh, exciting writing delivered by a gifted articulate storyteller directed by a clever and accurate director with an eye for emotional and physical detail.

Katherine Sproul’s set is clever and versatile and goes from Jetty to beach to underwater effortlessly, given added life by Mark Oakley’s mood-shifting lighting and video plot. There were some unexpected and beautifully timed transitions that brought us back to reality for a moment before the play plunged us back into the journey. Andrew Howard’s sound design was immersive and at times it also cleverly contrived to wake us from the dream-like state that O’keefe had lulled us into with this luscious text.

Tonight, O’Keefe introduced me to some new friends who will live in my imagination for a long time. The characters Lewis breathed life into as he developed this journey for Clay (O’Keefe’s character) to take through life are so clearly brought to life I feel I know them. They are ably voiced by Anne Steen (Angie), Chris Pitman (Jock), Arran Beatie (Keithen), Annabel Matheson (Jess), Rory Walker (Will, Ted, Super), AJ Patel (DJ, Dev, Dan), Gavin Norris (Topside) and Sandra Anderson (Aditi). Nice to meet you all. Thanks for a story beautifully told.

Not to be missed.

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Rating out of 5: 10

Venue: Space Theatre

Season: May 6th – May 21st 2022

Duration: 85 minutes (no Interval)

Tickets: Evening   Adult $80.00
                               Concession $70.00
                               Under 30, Full Time Student $39.00

Matinee:                 Adult $70.00
                              Concession $60.00
                              Under 30, Full Time Student $39.00


Age 15+

Content: Coarse language, adult themes, strobe effects, haze effects, loud noises

Photo Credit: Matt Byrne

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