Photos - Heidrun Lohr
The Seed is about war. About Vietnam in the 1970s. And about century-old religious battles in Ireland that still rage in the mind and the English home of proud Irish Catholic "solider" Brian Maloney (Ralph Cotterill).
The war at home is the most brutal. It's left indelible scars on this family, which bleed out during a powerfully emotional homecoming by son Danny (Pip Miller) and granddaughter Rose (Seed scribe Kate Mulvany). Danny, the "ten-pound-Pom", fled his family as a teenager for an Australian life but found himself conscripted to the Australian Army and shipped to Vietnam. He returned but dad saw his service as treasonous. He fought for the Crown, dad's great enemy in the enduring Irish struggle, and has never forgiven his "Danny boy" for the involuntary crime. Rose tags behind her father on this trip home as a journalist now investigating her own story, inextricably tangled with her family and these wars.
There's so much going on here. To say much more about this intricately layered story would be to spoil a rare theatre experience: connecting the roughly jagged, emotionally torn puzzle pieces into a really beautiful whole. While Company B only brought its Belvoir St-commissioned work to Brisbane's Gardens Theatre for three performances (the first in an intriguing professional season at the university campus space), it is an Australian story that should be seen by as many as possible.
Mulvany's autobiographical story of her father still seems raw. It's credit to her skills as an actress, but also her bravery in writing this story. Narrating as the quick-witted Rose, she delivers an at times emotionally-wrought performance. As Rose confronts the father that keeps his story - their story - locked away, knowing this is Mulvany's story too, the scene is almost too excruciating to watch.
The few days we spend with these three characters are perfectly paced, with dialogue that rings painfully true and sings with wit and warmth and, most affectingly, burning resentment. It is an entirely literate work, verbose even as Rose fills any narrative gaps and emotional ambiguity in spotlighted monologues, but not over-written. Every word - the weapons of mass destruction in this protracted war - seems appropriate.
Cotterill and Miller make the blood ties believable from their first scene, perfectly fleshing out a relationship strained to breaking point. Set and costume designer Micka Agosta creates a fitting three-dimensional battlefield inside a palpably lonely family home, together with composer and sound designer Steve Toulmin and lighting designer Matt Cox who cleverly add the soundtrack of fireworks to the unfolding drama. Under director Iain Sinclair it is a fully-realised work that looks and feels as big as the ideas it generates.
But this is Mulvany's story in so many ways. Her writing and acting valour make this re-enactment a vividly imaginative, powerfully thrilling and emotionally devastating piece of theatre.
The Seed will plant itself into your thinking for some time after.
by Kate Mulvany
Directed by Iain Sinclair
Venue: QUT Gardens Theatre, 2 George Street, Brisbane (next to City Botanic Gardens)
Dates/Times: Wednesday 6 May 8pm, Thursday 7 May 2pm (matinee) and 8pm
Bookings: 07 3138 4455
27 – 28 March | Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre, Bathurst
31 March – 4 April | Q Theatre Company, Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith
7 – 8 April | Orange Civic Theatre, Orange
15 – 18 April | Civic Precinct Newcastle Venues, Newcastle
21 – 22 April | Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford
24 April | The Events Centre, Caloundra
2 May | Pilbeam Theatre, Rockhampton
6 – 7 May | QUT Gardens Theatre, Brisbane
9 May | Northern Rivers Performing Arts, Lismore
12 – 16 May | The Street Theatre, Canberra
19 May | Albury Performing Arts Centre, Albury
21 May | Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre, Wagga Wagga
23 May | Esso BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre, Sale
28 May | Frankston Arts Centre, Frankston
30 May | Barossa Arts & Convention Centre, Tanunda
2- 6 June | AEG Ogden (Perth) Pty Ltd, Perth
9 June | Carnarvon Civic Centre, Carnarvon
10-11 June | Queens Park Theatre, Geraldton