Review: Borderlands at Erskineville Town Hall

Review by Alison Stoddart


In two short plays by Tommy James Green the themes of storytelling, lies and the brutality of men unite under a full moon to form a piece of theatre that is enhanced by the presence of each other.


In ‘Kindling’ a young woman, indoctrinated by the myths and storytelling in her medieval village about a ‘witch’ who lives in the forest, is convinced her daughter has fallen foul at the witch’s hand. But it’s the older woman who see’s the picture more clearly through her firsthand experience of the brutality of men, that then confuses the young mother. The older witch intuitively describes back to the young woman what she has been living through with a brutish and violent husband and plants seeds of doubt about her missing daughter. If the witch didn’t kill the child, then who did? And was she gazing upon a future version of herself when she confronts the witch. Their seemingly intertwined histories reflect each other and gives rise to the idea that this was under the same circumstances that the witch came to enter the woods, forever to stay away and hidden from the past.

The devil is alive and at work in this gothic, fairy tale-like world but it’s not in the form of the old witch that he hides.


The second of the diptych of plays is ‘Broken Promise Land’. An aging tourist visiting the Aztec ruins just over the American border is hauled in for questioning by two overzealous border guards who aggressively question him over suspicions of being a drug mule. The vulnerability of all three men is triggered when Walter, the Vietnam veteran, who carries the collective guilt of his generation about Vietnam, describes the brutal massacre of villagers suspected of hiding the Vietcong. His continuing disbelief at the brutality of war rings warning bells in one of the border guards, a veteran himself of the Iraq war, who has his own feelings of guilt and shame to contend with. The third character is Ortega the Latin American border guard who is mourning the loss of his brother and dealing with daily racism, even from his own colleagues.

The play cleverly shows that the stories we tell ourselves to counteract the shame and guilt we carry can never be fully accepted.


These two plays were well acted by a small cast of five who generated a palpable feeling of synergy. The plays were held at the Living Room in the Emerging Artists Sharehouse at Erskineville Town Hall. They were performed on a simple set with few but effective props. I especially enjoyed the wafting of garlic into the audience as the old witch made her poultice.




Images Supplied