Reviewed by Regina Su
There is nothingness, no water, no people, no food, there is nothing. Sand blasts have caused the big dry, and the few people that are left must find a way to survive. The Big Dry is a poignant tale about strength and resilience. It poses the hard questions; what is good? In a dystopic situation, are you a bad person if you compromise your morals?
The Australian Theater for Young People (ATYP) present this to us with such passion and emotion. Rory Potter, playing George, is just a shell shocked older brother, who needed to grow up too soon. His innocence and vulnerability are masked by the defensive shield he uses to protect his brother. Rory is strong, a loud presence on stage and he is so tense. The story seems to be determined by him and flow through him. His brother, Beeper (played on the night by Jack Andrew), is just a kid, and brings enthusiasm and energy to an otherwise desolate place.
These boys have a striking dynamic. The superficial sibling rivalries are balanced with bursts of maturity and humanity, especially when we meet a new character, Emily, played by Sofia Nolan. Sofia is fire. She acts through her whole body, from a menacing smirk to a defensive compliment. Her character is damaged and wounded, but Sofia plays her like a crow, eyes darting, cautious in the shadows and electric.
Inviting to the audience to suspend their disbelief is no mean feat, but the production team set the stage early on in what I thought was an unsettling beauty. Streams of warm amber light shroud the only set- someone's home, a kitchen perhaps, and everything is covered in dust. The air is thick and the small space of The Ensemble immediately becomes part of The Big Dry. We get swept up in it, we immerse and thus the tale of these young survivors becomes all the more emotional. Richard Sydenham's various roles include our opening character; Rabbit Man. He speaks in verse as if it were his mother tongue and adds to the eerie nature of the scene.
This performance from ATYP at The Ensemble truly is profound. It's a beautiful exploration of self preservation, and the tension throughout builds only in the characters and their interactions. It's evocative and rich with talent, as these young actors play physically and emotionally demanding roles. I recommend it to all, even just to see such a distinctly Australian play. Adapted by Mark Kilmurry and directed by Fraser Corfield, this play rings true.
Photo by Clare Hawley