Suzie Miller’s triumph about the best of humanity is confidently delivered by the Black Swan State Theatre Company.
Image by Gary Marsh Photography.
Perth is hit by a dust storm. Red topsoil fills the skies, streets and sea and brings daily routines to a halt. The ramifications are diverse, as seen by many including Emma the bride on her no-longer-white wedding day; Eddie the geologist juggling work and home crises; Elektra the dancer; Ian the FIFO mechanic each trying to get to work; and Alistair and Sophie in a hotel room, the morning after a hot first date. Each set of characters has their narrative unfold through the course of the day, the play shifting from scene to scene as the storm and inter-personal relationships develop, giving an insight into the drives of each person, seeing anger banished through loving humour, a series of lies leading to deep honesty, fear conquered by trust and self-hatred leading to compassion.
Each actor plays multiple parts, as well as lending a hand with props and set changes on stage. Despite this, each of the many roles is clearly depicted and fully performed, with an impressive range of emotional expression displayed by every performer. Caroline McKenzie brings well-judged comic lightness to the nosy neighbour role of Lorraine, highlighting the exasperation of Kelton Pell’s Eddie as he strives to juggle work demands with the teen surliness of his step-daughter (Charlotte Devenport). While Benj D’Addario impresses with his complete change between laconic FIFO worker Ian and marvellously flamboyant wedding planner David, Gemma Willing’s portrayal of ‘the woman’, a lost, dying soul drifting through Perth and accepting whatever comes her way, imbues everything with a dreamlike awe, bringing another dimension to a play full of the cut and thrust of human interaction.
The only weakness in the acting lies with Nicholas Starte’s portrayal of Masoud the taxi driver. While the character’s compassion, humour and conflicted self-identity are strongly conveyed, his ‘Egyptian’ accent seems to be Cairo by way of New Delhi, possibly Starte’s generic ‘foreign’ accent, doing a disservice both to the artist and Dust.
Trent Suidgeest has proved many times, in many genres, that he can do anything with the space and equipment at the Heath Ledger Theatre. He again pushes boundaries for Black Swan, creating lighting that works consistently in all the various scenes to effectively depict the omnipresent dust, the wind and the changing quality of light. Further technical wizardry is deployed in Mia Holton’s clever use of screen and video to take an actress off the stage and into the sea at Cottesloe Beach, the technical trick perfectly complementing the heart-swelling moment of family reunion. James Luscombe’s haunting sound design is a constant, yet not intrusive, supporting presence. Draped hanging sheets used for extra depth of dust storm and scenery as well as projection are Fiona Bruce’s elegant solution to the complex staging of so many storylines.
Suzie Miller captures the beat of contemporary Western Australian life perfectly with a subtly balanced script that Black Swan State Theatre Company and Emily McLean have brought to breezy life.
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars
Written by Suzie Miller
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company
Director: Emily McLean
Set & Costume Designer: Fiona Bruce
Lighting Designer: Trent Suidgeest
Sound Designer/Composer: James Luscombe
Video Designer: Mia Holton
Performed by Benj D’Addario, Charlotte Devenport, Caroline McKenzie, Ben Mortley, Kelton Pell, Nicholas Starte, Alison van Reeken and Gemma Willing
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre, Perth Cultural Centre
28 June – 13 July