Sprout is a difficult play to talk about. Coming out of it, I wasn’t quite sure what I thought it was about – humanity? words? the environment? beginnings? love? a cocktail of all of these? What I was certain of, however, was that I enjoyed it. It’s a tough play – one you need to concentrate on and one, given the amount of emphasis on the role of language in it, that you really need to listen to – but ultimately, it is highly compelling and very rewarding. I don’t think I’ve ever been that emotionally involved in a cane toad.
Sprout is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where there is almost nothing left but dirt, dust, wind, a few people, and words. This is the kind of play I think I would like to read as well as see, because it is so linguistically rich – quite apart from the obvious literary allusions in the play (to Rosetti, Herrick, Atwood and various other literati), the way that playwright Jessica Bellamy has used language is quite remarkable. Until I got used to it, I found the broken sentence fragments that characters used quite frustrating to listen to. There are not many pronouns in the play, and the ones that are used are used with meaning. It was hard to follow, but the constant eliding of self had a marked purpose. In this new world, struggling to sprout out of the dust, even ideas of identity – of you and me, of you being different to me, of you loving me, of me loving you – need time to develop.
Bellamy’s writing, which was excellent, was obviously difficult and challenging for the actors, who not only had to deal with their own characters, but with their complicated relationships with the environment and other characters, who were and were not part of themselves. They had to deal with text that ranged from the evocatively poetic to the fragmented and prosaic, and as a whole, I think they did very well. Sometimes I thought they spoke too fast – words were so important in this play that I wanted to savour them, and I definitely missed some bits – but overall, considering the difficulty of both text and characterisation in this piece, I think they did a great job. High commendation must go to Sam Sullivan as Tom, who was particularly outstanding.
Special mention must also go to director Gin Savage, who took a stupendously difficult text and communicated it superbly. Sprout is one of those plays that I’ll remember and think about for a long time. I don’t know if the fullness of its meaning is immediately apparent, or whether it’s something that needs to be mulled on, dwelled on, given time to germinate. It’s a beautiful piece of theatre that moves its audience with the simplest things – life, love, and the sprouting of seeds.
Pedro Collective presents
by Jessica Bellamy
Directed by Gin Savage
Venue: The Old Fitzroy | 129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo
Dates: 26 Oct – 19 Nov, 2011
Times: 8pm (Tues – Sat), 5pm (Sunday matinee)