It’s a curious thing, watching a world you are part of change and evolve into something you no longer recognise. Perhaps it happens so slowly that before you are even aware the lines have been crossed and the point of no return has been trampled over. This is the moment in time where Sprout by Jessica Bellamy sits. An environmentally ravaged Australia (not so hard to imagine) where rules are strict, and hope is as scarce as the water.
Presented by 7th Floor Theatre, a company that has provided a high calibre of work with their previous productions of Where’s My Money? continues their trajectory into independent theatre with a moving, curious, thought-provoking play that examines what holds us together when the environment we abandoned, abandons us.
In the desolate, windy, and harsh surroundings the characters have one shining light in the dark (literally). Perched high above the audience, The Weatherman (Hayden Burke) sits, his face covered and his voice a memory from the past. His presence, his existence and most of all his memories bind the characters together creating a sense of belonging and shared experience in a barren world.
Bearing down on the four players below, The Weatherman is reminiscent of a “Great and Powerful Oz”, a faceless figure, spouting poetry, sounds and sonnets in the dark.
Below, each character deals with the changes occurring in a traditionally human way. Lucy Lovegrove plays Nicole a free spirit burdened with the growing “sprout” inside of her. Locked away from the world and provided for by her rule making husband John (Alex Duncan). John’s desire to keep Nicole safe from the harsh outside are both genuinely kind and also suggest a patriarchal dominance similar to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood.
Contrasting the married couple, Tom (Manav Shrivastav) and Emily (Catherine Ward) are two teenagers breaking all the rules and looking for hope outside the barriers of the city. Their initial interactions are absurd, something akin to a Bird of Paradise mating spectacle, but as the actors are so committed to the performance, it’s impossible not to smile at their wonderful display of movements and sounds.
There are several subtle changes throughout Sprout, and the clever lighting design by Dane Travers is exceptional at complementing the onstage action. Supported by a stunning soundscape by Josh Mitchell, the 7th Floor Theatre team have raised the production values in Sprout, and it has paid off exceptionally well.
There are a few twists and turns in this play, and I won’t provide any spoilers, but I will say this production is a testament to what can be achieved through the loneliness and isolation of lockdowns. With raw and real performances that can be uncomfortable to watch and a benevolent overlord watching from his tower, Sprout is a telling tale of what happens when we lose everything and how we go on to find hope in the darkest of places and times.
7th Floor Theatre presents
by Jessica Bellamy
Venue: The William's Hall | 220 Macpherson Street Princes Hill VIC
Dates: 17 – 27 November 2021
Tickets: $35 – $30