Presented by Oily Rag Theatre
Reviewed 07 August 2019
It is unfortunate that science fiction is underutilised as a genre in theatre and it is always nice to see a theatre company, especially a relatively new company like Oily Rag attempt to stage one with their latest production Pilgrims.
A space drama, the show is set in a comfortable hotel like room in a space craft; its passengers are on a one hundred day journey to start a new life in a colony. A 16 year old veracious teenager (Shannon Gray) is billeted with a former soldier (Jabez Retallick) who is ten years her senior. The soldier is very unhappy with the unfortunate arrangement and to the teenager’s delight, he is uncomfortably grumpy about their situation This duo are predictably at odds with each other with attitude and lifestyle causing much trouble for him and a sense of entertainment for her. Keeping the two at bay is their ever polite and helpful robot host named Jasmine (Kyla Booth). A three handed piece such as this gives the actors a good chance to bounce off each other.
Far from a simple and classic setup of two different people forced into an uncomfortable environment, Pilgrims is dizzying in its delivery. This unique script moves in a number of unexpected directions and discusses a myriad of topics that it becomes a little overwhelming to follow. Almost experimental in nature, the show discusses themes including; social isolation, PTSD, lust, inappropriate sexual behaviour, public acceptance, boredom and stiflingly small shared spaces.
It was clear there were too many topics in a single script which did not give the opportunity for any of the subjects to be fully fleshed out. It left the audience at times lost and bewildered that the situation had shifted to an entirely new emotional space without concluding or meshing it into the next section of the show. It was clear at times the actors were having trouble switching from one topic to the next as seamlessly as it could have been.
While Gray threw herself directly into the role with gusto, the clear and reasonable choices Retallick made to focus on his character’s unfortunate past, were never quite able to connect. This is not entirely unsurprising considering the density of the text the actors were given. The underutilised Booth would have been useful to assist with the transitions but it was a missed opportunity that would likely have helped the logic of the storyline.
Reviewed by Simon Lancione
Photo credit: Mark Jeffries