“A place and a say, that's all we ever wanted,” states Aunt Mavis in Kylie Coolwell's sprawling inner city opus, Battle of Waterloo.
Moved off the block in Redfern as part of the post riots relocation and into a housing commission behemoth in Waterloo, Aunt Mavis and her niece, Cassie, are trying to make a go of it. Mavis has been “sealed” for a decade and Cassie's career as a designer is burgeoning.
Into their tranquil universe of two comes an emotional meteor storm led by Cassie's two siblings, Sissy and Jack, and her sweetheart, Ray, recently released from a three year incarceration. Jack wants a sanctuary away from his mother so he can play Playstation in peace, Sissy wants funds for prohibited pharmaceuticals and Ray wants reconciliation with his girl. Added to the melting pot is Leon, Ray's contemporary and Uncle Milo, who is a casual courter of Mavis.
Heir and successor of the kitchen sinker, Coolwell's impressive debut script forges the action in every space of the dwelling from living room, bedroom and bathroom, and the neighbouring balconies and street as well.
Renee Mulder's expansive set brilliantly utilises the full width and depth of Wharf 1 in an open plan apartment amid the tower block terraces and catwalks and Verity Hampson's lighting design evokes utilitarian public housing and the flickering TV screens of behind closed blinds domesticity. Set wise it's more Rear Window than Look Back in Anger, but much of the drama and conflict comes from characters looking back in anger rather than looking forward in hope.
Sissy, particularly, is doggedly damned to see her plight compounded by previous prejudices, specifically by the police, and entertains the notion that her son was stolen from her. Her mother actually has custody of her child, an arrangement determined by Sissy's drug addiction. Ray, while professing putting the past behind him and moving forward into the future, is still prone to the pitfalls of his prior life.
The ensemble of seven are uniformly splendid in the telling of this story, with Shari Sebbens as Cassie and Roxanne McDonald as Aunty Mavis supplying the warm, generous, hopeful heart of the piece, and Shareena Clanton as Sissy delivering the disturbance of the peace.
Luke Carroll gives a robust performance as Ray, illuminating and illustrative of the adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Guy Simon as Leon is larrikinism cheekily personified while Billy McPherson as Uncle Milo and James Slee as teenage Jack add vibrant textures to this big canvass of a play.
Staged under the direction of Sarah Goodes, Battle of Waterloo is about place and certainly has its say. Amen Aunt Mavis.
Sydney Theatre Company presents
Battle of Waterloo
by Kylie Coolwell
Director Sarah Goodes
Venue: Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company, Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: 1 – 27 June 2015
Tickets: from $40
Bookings: 02 9250 1777 | sydneytheatre.com.au