Kangaroo online 2021
Updated: Jun 22
3/5 bull ants and a cup of strong tea for Bathurst-born production Kangaroo!
By Miranda Gott; A Lingua Franca, Local Stages BMEC, and Q Theatre production
The Lingua Franca, Local Stages BMEC, and Q Theatre production of Miranda Gott’s play Kangaroo, was originally scheduled to be performed at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith, and Parramatta Riverside, Sydney following a successful premiere season in regional NSW. The production has been repackaged as an audio experience but I got the chance to see a digital version of the production.
Kangaroo is a three-interweaving-monologues style play by debut playwright Miranda Gott – known as a writer of fiction and non-fiction. The material is well-worn: an isolated rural town where three lives converge when local Kane Heckford is found dead. Melissa (Madelaine Osborn) is a teen mum with an abusive past; Mick (Duncan Wass) works at the town’s sewage facility and keeps to himself (he also has a dark past!); and Barbara (Geraldine Brown) a former Uni art lecturer is making a fresh start and writing a new book. In true gothic form the undercurrents of violence, isolation and human ineptitude eventually surface.
The image rich writing is a pleasure to hear and is particularly strong when the orchestration of the voices reaches its climax as secrets are revealed and characters transformed.
Directed with confidence by Becky Russell the elegant staging acknowledges and makes space for the playwright’s evocative text. A shape shifting canvas backdrop offers a range of emotive possibilities as well as a surface for projections. In this case of the works of Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi which are part of art lectures given by Barbara; and the view of a small town from a hill as the sun rises.
Each actor is individually engaging. As a whole the piece, perhaps, needs a finer orchestration of the voices with a focus on pace. If the actors could embody the energy of the text we could have enjoyed more vibrant physicality. It’s clear that each character is fighting personal demons, navigating unknown futures and grappling with a collective shame. I wanted to experience three lives against an ever-present death.
The recording is no-frills but does have multiple camera angles and intelligent editing to keep the “watch online” experience lively. It’s heartbreaking that so many performances were snapped shut with the encroaching pandemic. I was so looking forward to catching Kangaroo live at the Q Penrith – where just over 12 months earlier a series of play readings (which included Kangaroo) – were stalled due to the horrific bush fires.
Nothing replaces the magic of being in the same room as the performers, of course. The pandemic has taught us that connection through performance is still possible even in isolation. We have tools to share our performed stories. While we wait to emerge from these “unprecedented times” the story-teller and the entire pursuit of dramatic art is upended onto a different footing, and, if we are lucky, its products no longer resemble the predictable artefacts of the past.