– by Jen Perry
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the intimate show space at The Blue Room, were three people laying down on top of crushed water bottles and reddish orange earth strewn across the stage, like a beach scene. The music started and a symphony of bodies began. The movements were precise and beautifully interwoven between moments of direct action, moments of internal monologue and moments of rapidly passing time.
Presented by The Emergence Co., Under This Sun is an intensely thoughtful work. The action follows three main characters, who first connect at a bar on the edge of the bush, the great beyond. Grace (Maja Liwszyc) is a bartender who follows her brother into the unknown, hoping to find him before he gets hurt. Cooper (Peter Lane Townsend) is 18 years old and although perpetually unwanted by his father, lives in hope that they’ll both make it to the fictionalised God’s Thumb. Jeremy (Tristan McInnes) yearns to live like Jack Kerouac and to discover existence beyond the comforts he grew up with.
All three performers are breathtaking in their assertion of character. There isn’t a false note and punctuations of sincerity, when they come after a laugh, never feel forced. Liwszyc is interminably strong in her delivery. Her character swings from vulnerability when reciting poetry from Henry Lawson or Banjo Paterson to defiance in equal measures. The entire production feels like it is close to perfection; all movements and lines have been worked to the extent that they reached an inward catharsis. Nothing is extraneous in this piece. That is one of the primary joys of watching Under This Sun. I had a sense that I was watching a piece of theatre that had been thought about, and then thought about some more. Due credit is given to the actors as well as the director and producer Warwick Doddrell, who jointly devised the play.
Under This Sun would also not been as effective if the lighting and choice of set were not so minimalist. Lighting designer Emily Crane created the imagery of the burning Australian sun just as well as she did the presence of night-time campfire and the bustle of a bar. In addition to this, the actors’ use of the on-stage earth is so simplistically clever. One of my favourite scenes is towards the end of the piece, when Cooper fights against the expectations of his father, physically using a yellow umbrella to swat at the dusty earth being thrown at him by Liwszyc and McInnes. The shrouds of dust become illuminated by a soft yellow light, which fills the stage as Cooper’s anger at himself and his father bellows around the room. This is a play that shows, just as well as it tells.
Under This Sun is an impressive debut from The Emergence Co. If their next piece is anywhere near as smart as this play, I will be first in line to purchase tickets. I highly recommend you make your way into Northbridge and see this.
Under This Sun is playing at The Blue Room Theatre until June 6th. For more information visit their website.