Left – Ava Torch and Yalin Ozucelik. Cover – Yalin Ozucelik. Photos – Peter Greig
This Is Where We Live is a gorgeous script. I can absolutely see why it won the 2012 Griffin Award – it is rich, lush, strange, and poetic. It reminded me, in both style and content, of another Griffin Award winner: Lachlan Philpott’s Silent Disco. However, unlike the excellent production of that play a few years ago, I feel like this one missed the mark somewhat.
Our protagonists are Chloe (Ava Torch) and Chris “Odd Boy” McDonald (Yalin Ozucelik), a sort of modern day Orpheus and Eurydice. Chloe is new at school, an aggressively defensive girl with spina bifida from an abusive home who has trouble reading. Chris is the English teacher’s son, who stares at her in class and dreams of a great romantic future for them. He wants to save her, to lead her out of the underworld in which she lives. But the story of Orpheus visiting the underworld to rescue Eurydice is not one destined to end happily.
It is interesting that This Is Where We Live was programmed at Griffin right after Van Badham’s The Bull, The Moon, and the Coronet of Stars, another modern take on a Greek myth which uses a diegetic narrative form. Both scripts are intensely poetic and beautifully written, but where the two shows differ is in execution. In Griffin’s production of Badham’s play, the actors handled the difficult script with aplomb and balance. In this one, I felt the two actors were overwhelmed by the language. There is no sense in which this would have been an easy script to tackle, and both actors certainly improved as the show went on, but both felt slightly ill at ease in their roles. Torch in particular lacked rhythm, especially at the beginning of the play. Perhaps this was deliberate – Chloe’s trouble with rhythm is a running motif through the play – but it made the play initially inaccessible.
This said, this is an engaging production, and the sheer beauty of the script alone makes it worth seeing. Vivienne Walshe is a deeply, deeply talented writer. This play feels like what would result if Philpott’s Silent Disco and Badham’s The Bull, The Moon, and the Coronet of Stars had a baby. Her lyrical language also reminded me of another book set in this young adult space: Melina Marchetta’s wonderful On The Jellicoe Road. I love that young adult stories are being told on the stage, particularly ones this beautifully written.
However, it makes me a little sad that this production didn’t quite live up to the promise of the script. Perhaps it will warm up over the season’s run, but at the moment, it feels jerky and a little clumsy. There is so much potential in This Is Where We Live. I wish it had been realised a little better.
Just Visiting and Griffin Independent present
THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE
by Vivienne Walshe
Director Francesca Smith
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross
Dates: 22 June – 13 July 2013
Tickets: $35 – $15
Bookings: 02 9361 3817 | www.griffintheatre.com.au