Wild Cherries

Wild Cherries
By Daniel Keene. Directed by Beng Oh. La Mama Courtyard, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton. 14 - 25 August, 2019.

Daniel Keene’s story of contemporary forms of slavery is very confronting. He locates several characters in an unspecified location and makes it easy to imagine this harrowing social injustice occurring in familiar territory. This is what helps to evoke some of the more disturbing elements. His language is also extremely powerful. The characters are all trapped in a nightmarish circumstance that could be reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi genre. The point being that such dystopian futures are already here.

The show has a wonderfully eerie set that evokes images of the hard labour to which these individuals are condemned. There is a lightness in the design that gives a sense of great open space, although this is not always exploited. Much of the action and the dialogue is confined to a small corner of the stage. While this creates an oppressive sense of claustrophobia, other areas of the stage remain unexplored and could have been used to more effectively contrast the various and distressing accounts. 

However, this is counterbalanced by some very strong performances. Carmelina Di Guglielmo is astonishing as Sonia, one of the more seasoned and wiser members of the group. Her presence on stage is always arresting, even when making minor contributions. The young couple, Elena (Lucy Ansell) and Anton (Enzo Nazario), provide a refreshing sense of optimism despite the very dark tale. Their performances successfully strike the right balance between the opposing sentiments. The performances overall are somewhat uneven, but the production remains nonetheless forceful and compelling.

Patricia Di Risio

Photographer: Sarah Walker

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