Left – Daniela Farinacci. Photo – John Lloyd Fillingham
The Australian premiere of Ella Hickson’s Oil by Red Stitch Actors Theatre is a hugely ambitious production for the company. Not only have they moved from their traditional venue to the Cromwell Road Theatre, Oil has a cast of 10 and spans two centuries putting enormous pressure on the set design, costume and of course the actors as the audience is whisked through time and space. Beginning in the 1800s, a mysterious stranger (Darcy Brown) arrives with an even more mysterious substance, kerosene.
Lighting the gloomy stage with the ethereal oil, the quick talking American captivates May (Daniela Farinacci) who swiftly walks away from the “love of her life” Joss (Charlie Cousins) to follow the light and the warmth into the oil age. What transpires is a time traveling narrative driven by the Western worlds’ consumption of oil and bound by the mother and daughter bond of May and Amy (Hannah Fredericksen).
Oil is a highly charged political comment on the greed and corruption of the oil industry and the irreversible consequences society is facing as this resource runs out. Directed by Ella Caldwell, the production is one of the longer pieces I’ve seen by Red Stitch and could certainly use some editing down. It tries to do everything, and as such, fails to focus making some characters and themes superfluous.
Oil has a lot to say about the current issues facing society and the ever-expanding gap between the haves and the have-nots. The power struggle between the West’s consumption of the fossil fuel and the East’s access to it is as flammable as ever.
Farinacci is a fireball of wild energy as May, traipsing across time to both protect her daughter and find her own freedom. Fredericksen matches her energy as Amy, pushing back against her mother’s forceful views with her own stoic presence. In what was my favourite scene set in 2021 in the war torn Middle Eastern desert, Syrian Aminah, Nicole Nabout tears the entitled Amy down in a powerful display of emotion and truth.
Oil isn’t simply a cautionary tale, it’s a real time story of the world around us and the future we are facing. As the world looks for a new power source to replace oil, societal gaps will lengthen as greed and corruption run rife in the system. Mirrored by the controlling nature of May and her daughter Amy (a cute anagram of her own name), it shows the tighter we hold onto to something the more likely it is to slip away.
Red Stitch Actors Theatre presents
by Ella Hickson
Director Ella Caldwell
Venue: Cromwell Road Theatre | 27a Cromwell Rd, South Yarra VIC
Dates: 17 November – 15 December 2019 (note: No show Saturday November 23. Wednesday 27 November performance will be at 8pm)