Presented by Brink Productions
Reviewed 12 October 2015
In 1973 Patrick White won the Nobel Prize for Literature ‘For an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature’. He is largely hailed as one of the most important writers of the 20th Century and is certainly one of the most significant writers from Australia. So it is no surprise that 25 years after his death White’s work is being widely celebrated and this production by Brink goes right to the heart and soul of everything that White’s fans adore about his work.
Director Chris Drummond has taken great care in adapting the short story Down at the Dump to the play The Aspirations of Daise Morrow. Drummond has captured the social contrasts found in many of White’s works, including the constraints of what society dictates we should be and do (the Hogben family) against who we actually are and what we want to do (the Whalley family). The story takes place at the dump where the Whalley family are having a day out and in the cemetery next door where the Hogben family are burying the morally questionable but much loved Daise Morrow.
The production design by Michael Hankin adds an authentic Australian feel to the piece. Performed in the round and on lawn, the action moves in and around the audience, who are seated in wooden chairs and are occasionally used as props by the cast. There is a strong smell of Eucalyptus and there are bugs and flies too. Stretched above is a canvass of sky that is expertly lit by Tony Award winning designer Nigel Levings.
Music and atmosphere are provided by the Zephyr Quartet, led by Hilary Kleinig. The quartet has created an original score which perfectly complements and never dominates the action. The music is evocative and beautiful making Zephyr Quartet one of the stand-out aspects of this production.
White’s shifting narrative lends itself well to several different storytellers and the small cast of four expertly adapt to the 16 various characters they play. The standout being Paul Blackwell as Myrtle Hogben as he entertainingly captures Myrtle’s grief at the loss of her sister with an equal measure of grief at her own lost opportunities to break through the constraints of convention and live a life more free.
Kris McQuade is also highly entertaining in the diverse roles of the nearly toothless and common Mrs Whalley and the stuffy and self serving Cr. Hogben.
Amongst the grief, judgement and death there are beautiful moments of fresh beginnings and new discoveries provided by Lucy Lehmann and James Smith as Meg Hogben and Ossie Whalley, leaving us with the hope that Daise Morrow’s spirit lives on in those she leaves behind.
This is a delightfully beautiful, uplifting and original piece of theatre that leaves the audience feeling completely satisfied. It’s also a rare opportunity to see one of White’s famous stories on stage presented by a brave, ambitious and talented company.
Reviewed by Ceri Horner
Venue: Space Theatre Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: Until 24 October
Tickets: from $38 – Bass 131246, www.bass.net.au