THIS, THIS IS MINE, is a new play by a young Writer/Director, Duncan Ragg, developed in a 'generous' residency in Brooklyn, NYC, where it was first presented in a luggage factory in Red Hook. Determined to perform the work, at home, in Sydney, a new venture known as The Corinthian Food Store Collective, organised a space and time, firstly on the roof of an inner-city apartment building, but perforce of weather, I saw it in an improvised space: the living room of an apartment in the building. Cosy. There were abut 14-16 of us as audience. It was as if we were at a house-party and we were given entertainment. We were offered a drink - wine or soft, or tea, as we waited.
Charles Wu, one of the original founders of the Collective, entertained us, at first, with some songs - his own, some Beatles, and by request, a Lou Reed opus, to finish-up - a charming, idiosyncratic artist. After a re-organising of the space - sadly, a conventional seating block facing a 'stage-space' - two actors, Matilda Ridgeway (Eva) and Shiv Palekar (Lester), enacted a conversation, a growing confrontation between two friends, in the apartment of Eva's recently dead father.
In approximately 75 minutes the play covers a whole range of contemporary talking points such as national identity, personal identity etc. that are arresting - there is a seriousness going on here that has one attracted - recent new Australian writing seems to avoid such overtness and pertinence. That the 'politics' of the 'points' are not really investigated at any interrogative depth is not so much a disappointment but a sign of 'hope' that here may be a writer that is willing to grapple with meaningful issues. The principal weakness in the writing is that neither of these characters appear to have very much reason, or stakes, to be engaging with each other with such 'cultural' erudition and so the lack of tension in the story spine of this dramatic work keeps us from really engaging or caring, beyond an objective appreciation of what they begin to converse about. Neither of the actors, with Director, Mr Ragg, have found a true motivational through-line, that they could clue us with, to bring a three dimensional aura to Eva or Lester. They were, mostly, juvenile talking heads.
Ms Ridgeway moves to a moving commitment of 'emotion' at the play's climax and appears to be, personally, fairly comfortable with Eva's whole journey, while, on the other hand, Mr Palekar appeared to pitch his work just a little too self-consciously, as an actor creating character rather than comfortably letting Lester appear - nerves/inexperience? - we could see a young actor at work, and especially, in this intimate space, was transparent. That this 'sophisticated' conversation and confrontation between these two people collapses into mutual physical abuse was a little surprising and sad to contemplate if this was a seen as a satisfactory resolution to why and how these two people were meeting and struggling together.
THIS, THIS IS MINE, by Mr Ragg, is a new work that suggests a real writer's potential. And a potential from a new generation of self-starting artists: The Corinthian Food Store Collective, that wants to say something pertinent about the world they live in, other than the bed-sex and addictions, distractions of most other contemporary Australian theatre, television and film writing. This, this is a start. Says the writer, in the hand bill for the production:
THIS, THIS IS MINE was written in my Pop's house in Bowral. It also owes a lot of time spent in Mexico and Cuba.Bowral, I can, possibly, read in an influence. But the Mexico and Cuba experience, credited, didn't seem to appear in the writing dreamscape that I could detect. But, I am interested about that possibility next time.