Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Return to Earth

Photo by Jack Toohey

Arthur and Griffin Independent present the Sydney premiere of RETURN TO EARTH by Lally Katz, at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross.

Lally Katz wrote RETURN TO EARTH in 2006. Arthur and Griffin Independent have joined forces to bring this play to a Sydney stage. SMASHED was the last play by Ms Katz to be seen on the SBW Stables stage. This play has a similar ethereal feel about it in its story telling. One is never quite sure about what is happening (!) or where we are been taken.

Into a black void/space - a bare stage - Alice (Shari Sebbens) is greeted by her mother, Wendy (Wendy Strehlow), welcomed home, joined by her father, Cleveland (Laurence Coy). These 'new age' parents are relieved and overjoyed to have her back with them. It seems Alice (aka Erica) has been, strangely, absent, and, progressively, through the play she meets up with other people in her extended family life: brother, Tom (Ben Barber); his little daughter, Catta (Scarlett Waters), in need of a kidney transplant; her best friend Jeanie (Catherine Terracini) and a loner/town mechanic/fisherman Theo (Yuri Covich). Alice cannot clearly explain where she has been or what has happened to her, but, as a familiar reality begins to slowly envelop her, she is, metaphorically, perhaps, 'returned to earth' and we find a kind of realism of the melodramas of life: births and deaths, friendship loses and gains, cups of tea and flowers in vases, reveal themselves, represented, by the stage gradually being crowded with the appearance of a kitchen table and chairs complete with a 'folksy' patchwork cloth and the accouterments of a suburban home (Set Design by ARTHUR - advised by David Fleischer; Costume Design by Emma Kingsbury).

The story telling by Ms Katz is oblique and one needs patience, otherwise restlessness of attention can set in. Some of my audience were flummoxed by the lack of narrative surety. I was willing to work through the journey, mostly, because the acting by all the company was enchanting, and Paige Rattray seems to be so purposeful with every one of her directorial choices that I was 'commanded' to respond to the commitment of all the artists (Lighting by Ross Graham; Composer, Tom Hogan). They appeared to be so sure of where they were and what was happening that I was prepared to surrender to the moment by moment 'adventure' of the evening. I suspended my usual earthing needs.

The play finished. We sat in our seat and queried: Were the 'hippy' parents growing their own herbal remedies, experimenting in drug trips, and was Alice/Erica recovering from just such an indulgence - a bad trip? Did this Alice fall down a "hole" into a Wonderland? Was Erica/Alice kidnapped by aliens? Do we have to worry that we have a "Rosemary's Baby" wrapped in swaddling? Blah, blah, blah.

Or, is it all just a load of codswallop?

Ms Katz tells unique stories in unique ways. Hers is, generally, an odd ball voice in our present theatre writing (which made NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH such a simple surprise!) and you will either love it or not. Certainly, with this ensemble of performers you will not hate it.

My companion preferred SMASHED. I, on the other hand, preferred RETURN TO EARTH. Both seen at the SBW Stables Theatre. Go see for yourself.

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