Left - Lucy Miller and Damian Rice. Cover - Berynn Schwerdt. Photos - Deyan Grujovic
Defiance is a new, Australian, “immersive” work, which has all the right ingredients to re-enact Sydney’s diseased past of smallpox, influenza and even Bubonic rats. Personal stories of quarantine, in lieu of fact driven narration, save the play from an overly didactic tone.
Together, Carlton Lamb and Jamie Jackson have written a collection of three short stories based around the personal writings of people who were interned or worked at the former Quarantine Station. A fourth story adds a possible future outbreak.
Your voyage to the old Quarantine Station in Manly leaves you eerily isolated at the entrance gate, which prevents your further passage. Temporary posters promise your pickup and a well-informed tour guide conveys you down to the harbour foreshore for the first act. If nothing else you will be privy to a part of Sydney that is closed off to the public except for organised tours and those staying in the new accommodation facilities.
Defiance treads the uncommon terrain of a work that sits between a tourist event and a theatrical performance. Novel aspects of the production keep the audience entertained with authentic props and locations from a bygone era and well-executed multi-media elements that assist in the production’s didactic side.
These novel elements are balanced with a space that has been rebuilt for theatre with a stage that swiftly changes from boiler room, to boat, to home. The attention in the space shifts constantly and brings life to the voices of early Australians to generate empathy and plumb the lesser-known depths of Sydney’s history.
It is also the high calibre of acting in Defiance that keeps it from slipping into mere tourist attraction. The four actors nimbly stretch themselves across at least four roles each throughout the performance. Damian Rice (who has eight roles) shows his versatility as he shifts from the educated Dr Cooper to the cockney John Wilson. Lucy Miller maintains a motherly presence in all her four roles, while Rebekah Moore shows good range in her roles of High Commissioner, recent immigrant Xiao Zjang and as a young girl fighting the Spanish Influenza. As the personable rat catcher Ned Cratchley, Berynn Schwerdt’s easy style delivers a seamless bridging between education and entertainment.
Parts of the performance such as the sound design by Jeremy Silver and the lighting design by Allan Hirons is technically accomplished, but their presence tend to saturate the end of the second half and interrupt the tempo at the very end.
Overall, Defiance provides a fascinating insight into a part of Sydney that has been out-of-bounds to all but the sick for over a hundred years and can be enjoyed by visitors and Sydneysiders alike.
Carlton Lamb Productions presents
by Carlton Lamb and Jamie Jackson
Venue: Q Station (formerly Quarantine Station), North Head Scenic Drive, Manly 2095
Times: Every Thursday & Friday at 8:00pm; Every Saturday at 2:00pm and 7.30pm
Every Sunday at 5:00pm
Tickets: Full $65, Concession & Child $52
Bookings: www.qstation.com.au | Bookings are now open for shows until 31 October 2008.