Paddo RSL, March 5
The lights go up on three characters on a dim stage, bare but for two rows of institutional chairs. One of the characters, a young man, paces up and down. The second, an older woman in tailored dress and heels, stands rigidly, jaw clenched, as the third, a muscular guy in plaid and tatts, manspreads across three chairs, jiggling his leg arhythmically. They’re obviously waiting, but what for? When the fourth character arrives we find out. This, they explain to him, is the waiting room for failed suicide attempts.
Michael Gray Griffith wrote Marooned in the days following the loss of a close friend and colleague to suicide. It comes from a dark place and deals with dark feelings. But that does not make it a dark play. On the contrary.
Christopher Grant and Gregory Caine in Marooned.
The four characters, known only by numbers, represent all walks of life. Number 124 is a young, gay truck driver, estranged from his religious family, played by newcomer Daniel Hurst with febrile energy, twitching and pacing and crumbling as his truths come out. Gregory Caine is 1620, a broke, broken man who wishes life was easier. Rohana Hayes brings tight-lipped, knowing irony to 768, a psychiatrist who can’t make it all better. Lastly, Christopher Grant gives a finely nuanced performance as 379, the embodiment of the unsentimental Aussie male who would rather fight than talk about feelings. The ensemble work is mostly strong, with the four characters bouncing off each other, verbally and physically.
The Wolves Theatre Company has developed this compelling work as a simple four-hander that can play in the most humble of venues, using the lighting and staging to hand, making it easy to tour. At the Paddo RSL it gets a basic lighting rig and a less than complete blackout, which make the pauses between scenes awkward at first. Indeed, the staging as a whole is underwhelming, but once the drama builds the surroundings become irrelevant.
Is it only last week Australian of the Year Grace Tame told us, “History, lived experience, the whole truth, unsanitised and unedited, is our greatest learning resource. It is what informs social and structural change”? Marooned is a play that fulfils this urgent purpose, using communal story-telling, aka theatre, to confront Australia’s epidemic of life-threatening despair, shame and grief. It does so with humour and compassion and honesty. It needs to be seen.
Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au).
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