Brink Productions is developing a reputation for leaping into the unknown and creating world class theatre. The award-winning When the Rain Stops Falling was a shining example and now the company has produced another brilliantly provocative production with Skip Miller’s Hit Songs.
This world-premiere offering is compelling and imaginative, providing its audience with a slow and tantalising feast, which is revealed morsel by morsel. Once again South Australia’s award winning playwright, Sean Riley, has written an outstanding script, seemingly relished by the actors.
Director/Dramaturg Chris Drummond and Designer Wendy Todd have combined forces to produce stunning stagecraft skilfully illuminating this beautiful script. Geoff Cobham’s lighting is once again inspired and Quentin Grant’s music vibrant.
This production demands perfect timing and pace as the cast and crew weave a tapestry of images that constantly move the story back and forth from suburban Australia to war-torn Africa.
Every scene is evocative with images that linger in the mind long after the final act. Shadows, faces and sand are the background. Wooden crates mostly the props. Film by James Kalisch is used to subtle effect. In the same way that images are projected onto the stage’s giant scrim, the mind also projects memories and images while the story unfolds.
The stagecraft is superb as it gently and powerfully uplifts the storyline, propelling the characters and their personal struggles to the forefront. This is theatre with great heart as it bridges the disparate social structures of two countries. Each character’s personal challenge is gradually revealed in the context of the bigger picture. Riley has written multi-layered characters for a multi-cultural story.
Skip Miller (Chris Pitman) is a frontline photojournalist in war-torn Africa, facing dangers that most can only imagine, most white Australians that is. Miller’s African friends have their own horror stories.
Pitman’s role is pivotal, portraying the tormented soul of the person who witnesses and photographs constant atrocities in foreign lands. The ravages of the land and people leave their footprint on his mind, heart and soul. This is a demanding role requiring all of the sensitivity and strength that Pitman can muster to retain authenticity. He rises to the occasion admirably portraying the homelessness that can exist within one’s own soul, regardless of which country is called home.
Lizzy Falkland is a suitably cynical and entirely believable as Miller’s partner Alison Caldicott. She portrays a tough exterior which is easily scratched to reveal the underlying fragility. Here is someone who uses intellect as a shield to prevent her emotions crumbling like the sand beneath her feet. As such the scenes between Pitman’s Skip and Falkland’s Alison are riveting. Who is holding up whom?
Rory Walker is delightfully human as the warm, loving and needy Neville Miller, Skip's brother. His blossoming relationship with Patience (Assina Ntawumenya) is a sweet interlude providing light-relief and humour. Ntawumenya portrays Patience’s quiet strength and resilience, beneath which lies a cauldron of horrific memories.
Adolphus Waylee is exuberant and childlike as the young refugee Basel Mgembe and Mondli Makhoba is convincing as the pharmacist Augustus Forkay.
Each of these characters have stories of destruction, whether from monstrous external sources or from the demons within. However, at the heart of this play are the relationships, the interconnections, the love, warmth, need for closeness and distance, pain of rejection, ability to accept the past and move forward, and the need for human warmth.
This is lyrical, poetic and wondrous theatre that reminds us all to maintain our connection to our hearts and souls no matter what the circumstances, the background or the colour of the soil beneath our feet.
Brink Productions presents
Skip Miller’s Hit Songs
by Sean Riley
Director Chris Drummond
Venue: Odeon Theatre, Norwood SA
Dates: 16 February - 6 March, 2011
Bookings: BASS 131 246 www.bass.net.au | FringeTIX 1300 FRINGE www.adelaidefringe.com.au