Photos – Robert Catto
We are born a loan, and we die a loan.
We live on borrowed time.
The title character of Caleb Lewis' play, Maggie Stone, is a loan arranger for a bank. She's brittle and feels short changed by life. Her employer has put her on notice. She is alone. When she rejects a loan to an African man, circumstances conspire to bring Maggie into the sphere of his family and a collision course of culture, kinship and commerce.
Caleb Lewis' play, Maggie Stone, is about life as a transaction with its ledgers of debts and dividends, deposits and withdrawals, and the sadly defecit balance sheet of common decency in capitalist society. With elegant and truthful turn of phrase, Maggie Stone is a distillation of the essence of us and our society, an extension, examination and illumination of our experience. In spare, precise and economic stage writing, Caleb Lewis pinpoints our prejudices and hones in on our hypocrisies, taking into account trenchant racism, sham charity, and unbridled greed.
Channelling Lewis' writing into fluid stage craft, Sandra Eldridge employs a similar economic discipline with her staging; as crisp in pace and attack as the play's sharp dialogue.
The casting is exemplary. Eliza Logan in the title role, a cornerstone of the production, a touchstone of the tensions that run through the narrative, is terrific. Abrasive, adamant, argumentative, flawed but authentic, Anna Lee is all show charity with proselytising vacuity as the do gooder Georgina, whose white colonial Saviourism is palpably unpalatable and unsavoury. Alan Dukes is suitably despicable as the loan shark Leo, the kind of fiscal Fascist that ruthlessly puts “user” into usury, a heartless pawn czar of hapless debtors.
Branden Christine as Amath Deng brings a dignity to the dowry depleted widow, a hostage to misfortune from refugee to widowed single mum. Thuso Lekwape has the frenetic energy of the frustration of youth fuelled with identity issues of racial and cultural prejudice as Amath Deng's delinquent son, Benny. Kate Bookallil bookends two Muslim women – convenience store owner and a doctor – to give added texture to the text.
Sallyanne Facer's set is brutally functional and symbolic – a slab of cargo containers and domestic security doors backgrounding homes, offices, shops, hospital rooms and pawn broker premises.
This production of Maggie Stone is a credit to all. We are indebted for a reflective, pertinent and focused story well told.
You owe it to yourself to see it.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company presents
by Caleb Lewis
Director Sandra Eldridge
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre | 39 Burton Street (corner Palmer Street), Darlinghurst NSW
Dates: 30 Sep – 21 Oct 2018
Tickets: $38 – $54