By Chris Isaacs. Adelaide Fringe 2019. Presented by Cabbages and Kings Collective. Noel Lothian Hall. 2-17 March 2019

Six young friends reunite for a New Year’s trip to the outback, driving to the middle of nowhere, where they find a perfect waterhole, re-discover old friendships and desires, and struggle with the consequences of an impulsive act.

Chris Isaacs’ play drops these six white, middle class teenagers into the systemic racism and ignorance towards indigenous Australians, and whilst the perspective is solely that of the naïve friends, it’s not a cultural misappropriation.

Director Max Garcia-Underwood has assembled a great cast of three men and three women, delivering their individual retrospectives through monologue, and the collective story through clever stagework and impressive performances.

From the moment we step into the small theatre, there’s an ominous mist – literally, with the haze-filled auditorium, and from the brooding looks of two of the characters, staring to the horizon of some empty landscape. Yet the narrative initially bounces with comedy and expectation into the arranged camping trip and the long, long drive to the middle of nowhere. That journey allows the six actors to draw their personalities in detail: the one who prefers her creature comforts, the confident rebel, the one who lives an uneasy corporate life, the one who hides behind “whatever”.

These six performers are brilliantly cast – their look, their physicality, they inhabit these characters, show remarkable emotional range, and work so well as an ensemble. Each one ekes recognition and empathy from the audience. Tom Kitney’s design is an amazing achievement in this space: the lighting and soundscape evoke the outback, help set the tempo and shift the mood.

There’s a strong subtext about regret – in love, work and life, and thankfully, the narrative doesn’t offer us a neatly packaged solution. When the line “I didn’t do anything” is spoken over and over, each repetition instilling a subtle shift in meaning, there’s a realisation from this white, middle-class audience that he’s not just talking about himself,

Mark Wickett

Image: Lauren Alyce Photography.

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