Leigh Creek, a remote outback town in South Australia is about to collapse because the mine that supports it is about to close. It is an odd place to start a new life but understandable when you know that 15 year old Liddy (Annabel Matheson) and her mother are escaping the misery of domestic violence. The girl is a sci-fi tragic and so is Badar (Patrick Jhanur), the same age, the lonely teenager who befriends her. Both are outsiders and, from him, Liddy tries to make sense of this confounding environment.
Terrestrial’s author (Fleur Kilpatrick) says in the programme notes that she dedicated her play to lonely girls, bored boys, to quiet towns and “to a landscape that looks like Mars”. She adds ”landscape informs how our trauma, confusion, illness or fear manifests itself”. It does in this play. She also says that it is in defiance of the way teenagers are so often depicted in a bad way. If this show’s audience at the friendly Hopgood Theatre is anything to go by, the excellent audience was a prime example of how proud we can be of them, the point Fleur Kilpatrick is making. On this occasion it was attended by students from various high schools, including one from Kangaroo Island. If theatre in this country is to survive, we must encourage the young to see it while they are still children and teenagers and any resources we can deploy for that purpose are well spent. Look at audiences in general and see the plethora of grey heads. The advantages of seeing live theatre are myriad and the younger audiences are, the more enriched their lives will be. One of the compelling advantages may be that live theatre changes difficult behaviour. This audience was spellbound, listened intently and responded to the language, their language. They were just an example of what Fleur Kilpatrick calls “you warm, smart, funny, resilient beings.” At the core of this play is a deep respect for the two on stage and the teenagers who informed their voices.
There are actually three people in this play, although we only see two. Although his face is well known on stage and screen, veteran actor, Patrick Frost is an infrequent off-stage voice known only as Him, the voice of quiet authority and reason. It opens with heavy doom-laden music, perhaps an indication of how troubling life can be. Liddy and Badar talk about many things that touch and influence their lives and Director Nescha Jelk says that they, like every individual, are the result of their own history, culture, genes, upbringing and personality and that one person’s reality may be utterly different to another’s. It is understanding and having compassion for others’ reality and realising what is real in one’s own life that matters. That is Liddy’s tussle in this play, sorting memory and “aliens” from reality. Badar is her sounding board – or is he? The title – Terrestrial – means an inhabitant of earth as distinct from other planets, not in the sea, the air – or the stars.
There’s a very competent support team which ensure the smooth running of this presentation. The two young actors do well to depict the turmoil of teenage years and Annabel Matheson is delightfully convincing as the main character, Liddy. They will take the play to the Space Theatre, Adelaide, from the 22nd May to the 3rd June.
When the play had finished the two actors and the Director came on stage to answer questions from the audience. They all needed some training in how to respond to that. There’s a difference in being able to interpret a character and use their words and using one’s own and dealing with the unexpected. This was an audience of the characters’ contemporaries and they could have worked harder at anticipating questions and giving more interesting and lively answers. All three would benefit for cutting out the ubiquitous and lame “Yeah” to end a sentence they are unable to complete intelligently.
State Theatre Company South Australia presents
by Fleur Kilpatrick
Director Nescha Jelk
Venue: The Space Theatre | Festival Theatre, King William Road, Adelaide SA
Dates: 23 May — 2 Jun 2018
Bookings: 131246 | statetheatrecompany.com.au