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Review: Wild Cherries at La Mama Theatre

By Lucinda Naughton

Wild Cherries is a beautifully crafted play by Daniel Keene and directed by Beng Oh. Keene gives a voice to some of the most marginalised people: a group of workers harvesting a cherry orchid, knowing the harvest is almost finished but not knowing when or where they will be carted off to next for more work. The scene Keene sets is vivid and harsh, yet the characters’ relationships soon bring a contrasting warmth to the stage. A family has developed within this scene of modern slavery.

Keene’s writing masterfully ranges from rage, pain and regret, to humour and charm. It is an impressive script.

For me, the highlights of Wild Cherries were each character’s monologues; Keene’s writing is so poetic, each character’s story is very different to the next, each shows the personal inner struggle. Molly Broadstock shares Laura’s story of being abandoned by her mother as a child and having to begin work from a young age; her methodical sewing is a great anchor to her monologue, which is innocently painful as a distressing event occurs. Lucy Ansell’s Elena questions god in a unique way, making her audience think and feel her struggle, before suddenly making us laugh at the absurdity she addresses us as if we are God, which calls attention to our lack of action. I feel Enzo Nazario’s performance lifts the entire play with his tenderness and incredible comedic chatter; he is completely captivating and sweet. His monologue involves talking to himself into a shaving mirror, a highly entertaining theatrical technique that he effortlessly delivers. Troy Larkin as Emil changes dramatically in his monologue – something is unleashed within him that lets out so much emotion, all triggered by a simple cat. Kim Ho’s portrayal of Dorin is very moving; he tells the story of a lost child labourer and his bashfulness is absolutely touching. Carmelina Di Guglielmo along with Dennis Coard play the elder leaders of the group. Milijana Cancar plays Afina who demonstrates the sorrow and hardship of having to leave her child because she couldn’t provide enough for her; she brings great depth to her performance.

Beng Oh’s direction works well with Keene’s text, together creating a strong team as Oh explores the complexities. Emily Collett’s set design catches your eye as you enter the theatre; two ladders, one platform block, tree netting dangling from the ceilings. Oh makes good use of the different physical levels, creating interesting physicality within the space, which compliments the script. There’s a strong sense of flow from each scene to the next even though some are broken and fragmented, reflecting the topics within the play. Ben Keene’s sound design adds to the layers of the play, reflecting the mood and tone of each scene.

Wild Cherries draws attention to those we ignore. It is uncomfortable at times, it is moving, and most importantly it gives a voice to those who aren’t heard.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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