The Tasmanian Theatre Company
By Anica Boulanger-Mashberg
This program comprises Sue Smith’s The Seagull, Debra Oswald’s Bull Kelp, Adam Grossetti’s Sex, Death and Fly Fishing and Finegan Kruckemeyer’s The Exceptional Beauty of the First and the Last. The playwrights were commissioned for a week’s residence in remote Tasmanian towns, producing four plays describing (sometimes circumscribing) place as a way of framing narrative.
Having seen the readings of these works during Ten Days on the Island in 2009, I anticipated this production’s landing in Hobart after its state-wide tour, including Zeehan, King Island, Miena, and Swansea, where the residencies were.
All four plays disclose beautiful preoccupations with water – be it in rain, lake, sea, or shoreline – reminding us of our island existence. Smith, Oswald, and Grossetti’s palettes offer concrete experiences and tales of their locations, while Kruckemeyer’s is a more abstract exploration of what place means – how it shapes our lives and how we live within ‘place’. All four write with sensitivity and perception, creating strong and never patronising portraits of these places.
Performers Guy Hooper, Jemma Gates, Scott Farrow and Joan Murray are versatile and energetic in all four pieces, and Robert Jarman’s direction largely achieves engaging contrasts of tone, staging, and energy. Grossetti’s very prose-like two-hander could, in the hands of a lesser team, be quite laboured, but Hooper and Farrow manage to sustain our interest. Bull Kelp is the stand-out, brimming with quirky yet entirely believable interactions, and again Hooper and Farrow glow; Oswald’s work exemplifies the imaginative possibilities of such a commission.