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Review: Into The Shimmering World at Sydney Theatre Company

Review by Alison Stoddart


It’s a stripped back and whimsical performance by one of Australia’s most watchable actors, Colin Friels that is the Sydney Theatre Company’s latest offering, Into the Shimmering World. Alongside the eminently enjoyable Kerry Armstrong, this production portrays the confundity of Australia.  A country where we want what we want, until we get too much of it. Rain, sunshine, immigration and freedom of speech are but a few examples of this too much/not enough binary that can divide individuals and nations.  Set against this theme comes the tightrope balancing act that is working the land. Written as the last in a trilogy by Angus Cerini, a recipient of the 2021 Patrick White Playwrights Fellowship, Shimmering taps into the ever-shifting landscape of the Australian dream. 


This confounding perplexity is felt at a deeper level with Ray, an aging and anxiety ridden farmer who is facing his own and his land’s inevitable demise and expressed by dialogue delivered in short, sharp and jerky, but ultimately rhythmic, one-word lines. The delight of Ray and his wife Floss’ expressions as they listen to the rat-a-tat-tat of raindrops on their tin roof (later echoed by the gunshots that ring out frequently from their neighbour’s property and whom Ray is convinced is up to no good) soon turns to dismay as the creeks flood and the stock get bogged and have to be destroyed. But Ray has been here before, he’s a farmer after all and he and Floss resort to their cups of tea and a well-worn mantra back and forth between them of ‘it’s ok’.


Ray’s alexithymia which is a standard part of portraying a post war Silent Generation male is played out in a moving and funny scene with his son who gently encourages him to use physical and verbal expressions of love, and which invites the question who the parent is and who is the child. 


Ray is a man who, against all the travails and grind that working the land entails, maintains a zest, an inner spark that is there until the end. ‘Hardship’s normal’ he scoffs to his son when the proposal of an easier life away from the land is put to him.


This lifeforce in Ray is nicely contrasted with his old mate, played by Bruce Spence, who encapsulates the futility of life by alarmingly mentioning cutting himself on the arm. The treat of seeing Spence and Friels on stage together is worthy of the ticket price alone and Spence has one of the best lines in the play with ‘do you have another beer or do you buy the pub?’.


Utilising a set with excellent lighting techniques that portrays nuance more convincingly than any dialogue could, we see the passing of time, the daybreak and the dusk. The backdrop has cleverly hidden louvres that open towards the end of the show and bathes the actors in light, a reference perhaps to Ray’s ‘shimmering’ world.


Shimmering is a play about not much but manages to be about the Australian bush, the land, the community, the generations, learning and love and loss, and a man who lived a little life and that was OK. 


Image Supplied


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