– by Jen Perry
Brooke and Leon are friends, or at least they used to be. Now Leon lives in Perth and works as a consultant for government on Indigenous affairs and Brooke lives in the small country town where they grew up. Still bearing the scars of a terrible accident that disrupted their lives and pushed them apart, both Brooke and Leon remain unwilling to face their current situations and create a future that looks different from the one they imagined as teenagers.
Songbird is written by Shakara Walley and stars Bethany Cooper (Brooke), James Taylor (Leon) and Zac James as Mike, Brooke’s brother portrayed through episodic flashbacks. The main action occurs in a local pub after Leon comes back to his hometown to visit Brooke, who works at the radio station by day and sings original songs by night. Presented by Imprint Productions in association with Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, Songbird is Walley’s first self-penned original work. Having graduated from WAAPA in 2007, Walley is an accomplished actor and with this latest production, a budding producer.
While Songbird may lack a level of refinement, the sincerity of its characters and their struggles shine through. The small Blue Room Theatre space is staged as a cabaret, with audience members sitting at red-clothed round tables topped with tea light candles. The focus of this seating highlighted the ‘play within a play’ aspects of the ebb and flow of the story. Walley’s writing delves into Brooke and Leon’s past just as much as it does the present. These narratives are further explored through the use of original music, written by Walley and her family members. Direction by Ian Wilkes results in the actors’ excellent use of stage and movement and showcases their individual abilities to convey action and emotion over vast tracts of time.
Some of the most fascinating undercurrents of Songbird are the thematic implications of family, duty and honour. In one of their first conversations in years, Brooke and Leon discuss their work. Leon has come to Perth to act as a consultant for Indigenous affairs, an expert that communicates with both Aboriginal communities and the government. Brooke asks him why those with landed interests can’t simply ask the elders in the communities what they would like to do. Leon stammers a reply, again reciting his job description. The moment is pointed and memorable, and calls to the complexities of opinion that surround members of all communities.
Songbird’s melodies will stay with you longer than its one-hour run time. Its well-paced and intriguing narrative are among its many credits. You only have until July 18th to see it.
Image credit: Jamie Breen