By Kipp Lee
Sorry to Cut you off, Penny is a new work from Tantrum’s Trajectory Ensemble, made in collaboration with David Williams. Set in a share house in Maitland on election night for a potluck dinner peppered with political puns, the evening passes through a range of emotions and courses as four women confront Australia’s current political climate.
Tantrum is Newcastle’s premier youth arts organisation and has been making noise for over 40 years. Their years of experience and talent shows in this production, created by their Trajectory Ensemble, capturing an authentic view of contemporary Australian culture. Sorry to cut you off, Penny is touted as a modern Don’s Party meets Top Girls, but it’s so much more. Facilitator David Williams, guided the ensemble into creating a realistic and natural world only to have them repeatedly break that, reinforcing the message of the play that no matter how hard the word tries, women will not be controlled.
The characters in the play, heavily influenced by their real-life counterparts, built a genuine and truthful world, with colloquialisms out the wazoo and a set that felt lifted straight from every uni student share house out there.
Phoebe Turnbull, played a bleeding-heart leftie sociology major who hosted the evening, made dinner on stage and sipped from a glass of red. Activist Meg O’Hara wore yellow – but not Clive Palmer yellow! – and baked a vegan chocolate cake for the occasion. Daynah Simmons, a politically illiterate 19-year-old, played catch up to the others all evening, missing the references to “Potato Dutton” and “In heaven with Kevin 07”. The final dinner guest was Alana McGaughey, a vegan who is tired of fuckwits, angry at men and ready for the Liberals to be voted out already.
Each actor played their roles with nuance and authenticity but special recognition must go to Phoebe who multi-tasked her way around the stage, owning the space with a practiced ease and supporting the other performers effortlessly.
Nik Lyon’s lighting design, blurs the line between real and stage lighting with standard home lighting fixtures hanging over the lounge room, kitchen and dining table, differentiating each area more clearly than if there had been actual walls, with seamless changes between scenes and mood shifts. The simple yet fun gimmick of manually winding the clock forward to a track of overlapping election night soundbites and dimmed lights, feels very filmic without breaking the world of the play, in addition to the almost choreographic movements of clearing and resetting the table between courses.
Stand out moments were when where the play broke from its peak-behind-the-curtains style of naturalism and the actors turned out, directing their lines straight to the audience, accompanied by the choice soundtrack, deployed strategically, flowing from scene to protest rally to choreography to all out, free-for-all dance party.
The play concludes with the usual dance of “you’re not catching the bus alone at this time of night” that every woman has experienced and a speech from Phoebe that no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall, women always get interrupted, ignored, and always end up doing the dishes. Sorry to cut you off, Penny is a play that reminds you that the fight is not over, and for some, will never be over but it’s also a play that lifts your spirits because you are never fighting alone. It is a deeply political and inherently personal work that puts women’s voices at the front of current issues and would never make Leigh Sales cut off Penny Wong only to cross to Peter Dutton instead. Sorry to cut you off, Penny is playing at PACT from the 5-7th September then the 11th-14th at the Civic Theatre Playhouse, Newcastle.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.