That Eye, The Sky

Reviewed by Regina Su

“That Eye, The Sky” is a distinctly Australian play being reimagined at the New Theatre. Based on a book by Tim Winton, and adapted for stage by Richard Roxborough and Justin Monjo, the dialogue is infused with humour and Winton’s poignant prose. We follow the life of Ort (Joel Horwood), a thirteen year old boy, learning to cope with life's big questions following a horrific accident that put his father in a coma.  As with any Winton, the play has its quirks and cast of odd characters, and is quintessentially Australian in lifestyle and word.  

Ort’s naive optimism and purity lean towards the spiritual and the supernatural in order to understand his father's coma and his mother's new religion.  Because of this,  the production really explores the boundaries of experimental theatrics and brings a sense of magic - realism to the stage. 

The play is quite touching at times, without being overly sentimental and has a real Aussie-battler feel. It creates a very dreamlike space, while maintaining a sense of real Australia.  The dialogue captured this really well, showcasing our token resilience through fast wordplay and Australian humour.

The New Theatre's production of “That Eye, The Sky” is an immersive theatrical experience that celebrates all elements of stage play.  I was truly impressed with the sound designer's work, who was able to create a cinematic soundscape that was ambient and lifted the play. 

Similarly,  the set was minimal,  but incredibly effective in being a multipurpose space that maintained the fast pace of the play. In fact,  it's some of the best staging I've seen from the New Theatre yet.  

Horwood’s portrayal of a doe-eyed thirteen year old was incredibly physical and managed to capture the nuanced undertones of fear and loneliness, while being fresh faced and ready to believe in anything. In fact, all the actors gave very passionate performances and we're able to create the imaginary in blank space. 

While the story is compelling and the characters are endearing, I wonder if the play could've had a more redemptive ending. The play was left on a cliffhanger, and while it is refreshing that the play doesn't cohere to a traditional narrative structure, I feel that the tale may have been more engaging if the characters had a more complete emotional journey. 

That said, the audience was incredibly responsive and I found this play to be a polished production that used the space of the New Theatre really well. “That Eye, The Sky” shows until 16th April.

Photos by Bob Seary